MCCSC Board Votes to Disarm School Resource Officers

Iris Kreilkamp, Co-Editor-In-Chief

Tuesday, May 18th, the MCCSC School Board voted to revoke permission for school resource officers to carry weapons. School resource officers have been allowed to carry weapons on MCCSC property since at least 2014, but with this vote they will be unarmed.
The topic was proposed in last month’s board meeting, but voting was pushed back to this month for further discussion on the language of the proposal.
You may have seen South’s SRO, Brian Mobley, walking around school. He may look similar to a security guard, but he’s a little different. School resource officers are “career law enforcement officer[s] with sworn authority,” according to the National Association of School Resource Officers. Generally, they’re personnel from local police departments whose purpose is to resolve conflicts and protect schools, students, and staff. They receive specific training to become SROs, but there is no official certification (i.e. the training does not expire — once an officer has been trained, they do not need to recertify) other than their general law enforcement training.
Arming SROs has been a topic for years, but the rise of school shootings and increased public outcry over police brutality and race relations has made the topic increasingly relevant. Many believe that an armed officer is integral in preventing mass shootings in a school — in 2021 alone, there have already been 29 incidents of gunfire on school grounds, according to Everytown.org, and school shootings have continually increased yearly. Others believe that the presence of weapons in schools could exacerbate tensions between faculty and students, especially BIPOC students. Many worry about the “school-to-prison pipeline” — the trend in which students move from schools into criminal justice systems at high rates as a result of biased disciplinary action in schools and “zero-tolerance” policies that often target poor or BIPOC students, and believe that guns in schools will only worsen this.
In Tuesday’s meeting, board member April Hennessey acknowledged the tensions the subject raises. “This is a complex topic… I think for many of our students who have grown up in unsafe home environments, or who have complicated relationships with law enforcement, [armed SROs] can be triggering,” said Hennessey. “If we say that schools are safe, we have to lean into that. Using the language or topics of the incerceral system just inherently contradicts that assertion.”
Public commenters also weighed in. “There is nowhere in the world more magical than a school,” said Keith Williams, a member of the Indiana School Resource Officers Association. “That’s what makes [schools] so special, and that’s why we have hundreds of officers across the state that want to protect that.”
Bloomington South nurse Brandy Rayles asked that the board not make any decisions on the topic without further consultation with MCCSC faculty and staff. “I have personally asked an SRO to be present with me when speaking with angry parents on multiple occasions… I agree that smart gun legislature and parent education is essential. However… such legislature isn’t yet in place,” said Rayles. “Disarming the SROs without changing the social and political situation first is like a doctor removing the tourniquet before repairing the bleeding artery,” said Rayles.
Before the final vote, board member Jacinda Townsend Gides also cited data from the Harvard Civil LIberties-Civil Rights Law Review showing that there has been no instance where an SRO prevented a school shooting through the discharge of a weapon. “Statistically speaking, however SROs are functioning, the weapon is not an essential part of that… and can cause a lot of fear,” said Towsend Gides.
Although there is no concrete data showing how many SROs there are across schools in America (or how many are armed) because there is no official certification process, the National SRO Association estimates there are between 14,000 and 20,000. They recommend that SROs carry all equipment other law enforcement would carry, but state that they are aware that some jurisdictions “unfortunately prohibit their SROs carrying their firearms.”
The board passed the vote 6 to 1 in favor of disarming MCCSC’s SROs.