Undecided future of the ‘School Resource Officer’ program in La Crosse

Local News

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WLAX/WEUX) – Schools with School Resource Officers often have an increased rate of suspensions for students of color, according to the American Journal of Education. With the future of the SRO program in La Crosse undecided, First news at Nine’s Hayley Spitler has a look at the varying voices on what needs to happen to keep students safe.

For 27 years, the La Crosse School District has funded a school resource officer program. The district’s contract with the police department is expiring next year. In the 2018-19 school year, the district paid 250 thousand dollars for five School Resource Officers.

A committee has formed to decide if that arrangement should continue. Last night it heard ideas from the community.

Community member, Laura Abellera said, “Students deserve to feel valued, seen and heard not criminalized or police in their place of learning, community, and growth. I am asking that you follow the call from marginalized youth from your community to end the SRO contract in our school.”

In total 22 spoke at the open community forum. The program was criticized by some, while others praised it like Marlis Obrien who says there were times she wouldn’t have sent her to son school if not for the SRO.

Marlis O’Brien, mother of Logan High School Student said, “At a time when there are more school shootings and more attacks in schools, I think that pulling the plug on a program, such a vital program that protects our children. They’re really our first and last line of defense.”

Doug LeClair was instrumental in hiring the first School Liaison Officer, he says it’s important for students to have their first encounter with law enforcement as an advisor.

Doug LeClair, former Logan High School Associate Principal said, “I firsthand observed, evaluated, and watched this program grow and have a positive impact on our school district. “

Instead of SRO’s, Monica Lazere recommended hiring additional social workers.

“I was called in many times to classrooms where there was trouble and I helped with what I could because I have skills that I was trained to do that,” said Monica Azere, former Central High School Social Worker.

Others say we need to walk in an SRO’s shoes before making a decision on the future of the program.

Sarah Graves, SRO wife said, “You are making a decision that would affect the safety and the well-being of our children and teachers. Once school is back in the classroom, I would challenge each of our board members to spend some quality time with an SRO.”

Another community forum will be held in October with details to follow.

In La Crosse, Hayley Spitler, First News at Nine.

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