Cops in school buildings don’t make Montclair’s students safer (Letter)
“So those who feel deep in their gut deep anxiety that abolition means knock it all down, scorch the earth and start something new, let that go. Abolition is building the future from the present, in all the ways we can.” — Ruth Wilson Gilmore
During the Town Council meeting on June 20, the council passed a resolution authorizing a shared services agreement with the Board of Education to provide for school resource officers for the upcoming school year.
As we said during public comment, we strongly disagree with this resolution.
After our public comments, Councilman Bob Russo replied to us, “We cannot be negative about the police.” He went on to say, “I just cannot understand the hostility to public safety and to the people who have to help us maintain some sort of secure environment for students.” And also, “We’ve had people shot in schools [in the United States] because there wasn’t enough security.”
While we abhor the tragic consistency of school shootings in the United States, research shows that SROs do not, in fact, make students or schools safer.
In the book “The End of Policing,” Alex Vitale writes:
“The massive expansion of school police is predicated on the idea that it makes schools safer, but this just isn’t true. Schools with heavy police presence consistently report feeling less safe than similar schools with no police. There is no evidence that SROs reduce crime, and there have been only a few instances where officers played a role in averting a potential gun crime (these mostly involved threats).”
Moreover, in a 2019 article by Liz Schlemmer titled “Do school resource officers prevent school shootings?” by Liz Schlemmer for 89.3 WFPL News, criminal justice researcher Tom Mowen said, “For someone to suggest that SROs prevent school shootings is absolutely unfounded in terms of science. There’s no support for that statement at all.” He continued: “The knee-jerk reaction is to put police in schools, and yet we don’t question whether or not that is achieving our goal.”
(For example, there was an armed SRO at Columbine in 1999 as well as one at Parkland in 2018. As we terribly know, both atrocities still occurred.)
This begs the question: what should we do instead?
Ultimately, we agree with Vitale’s analysis that “officials should adopt a variety of evidence-based reforms that are cheaper and more effective than police. Social and emotional learning, behavioral monitoring and reinforcement, peaceable-schools programs, and restorative justice systems have all been shown to reduce discipline problems in schools without relying on the logic of control and punishment.”
We also believe that school shootings and white supremacy are inextricably linked and that nothing will fundamentally change until we abolish white supremacy and the structures that give it power: imperialism, neo-colonialism, racial capitalism and more.
We strongly urge the Montclair Township Council to ground its resolutions in different types of research in the years ahead.
A better world is possible for our students.
Member, Montclair Beyond Policing
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