Parents want police back in our schools

Bring Back the Blue
by Dr. Michael Bratland

School administrators and school board members say they’re all for our kids, our parents and our teachers, but I have to wonder if they really are. How else do you explain the recent rush to remove police officers from our schools. Our students’ safety and well-being are at stake. Parents understand this and want resource officers in the schools. And our teachers deserve safe and secure and undisruptive classrooms where they can teach students who want to learn. And yet too many school administrators and school board members – my own 4J District tragically among them – have engaged in an unthinking stampede to remove public-safety (peace) officers from our schools.

The public and parents couldn’t be clearer on this issue. The PDK Poll of the Public Attitudes Toward the Public Schools has been in business since 1969. It’s a trusted source on public opinion regarding K-12 education. The 54th annual PDK poll in 2022 found that an astonishing 80 percent of adults supported having armed police officers on duty when classes are in session. And the support for school cops was even higher among school parents – 82 percent. We talk a lot about today’s partisan and ideological divide. Well, it doesn’t don’t exist on this issue. Republicans, Democrats, independents conservatives, liberal, moderates – all were on board when it comes to cops in the schools.

The popular support is there at the local and state level, as well. A 2021 survey commissioned by the Los Angeles school district found that 72 percent of Asian-American and Pacific Islander parents, 67 percent of Hispanic parents, 54 percent of white parents and 50 precent of African American parents believed schools were safer when police were present.

In Wisconsin, where both the Milwaukee and Madison districts pulled school-based officers from their schools in June 2020, a poll two years later found that a full 63 percent of the public thought having police officer in public schools increases school safety.

The public and parents understand what too many school boards and administrators have willfully ignored, conveniently forgotten or cravenly abandoned in the knee-jerk, woke rush to remove police officers from schools.

Yes, they know it’s good to have an armed police officer at the school ready to respond in the unlikely event of a schoolhouse shooting. Why? Because the study of schoolhouse shootings found that as soon as the schoolhouse shooter is confronted, the killing stops. They also know it’s possible that a schoolhouse law-enforcement officer can sometimes be on the scene when bad things happen in the classroom or hallways. More often than not, however, teachers and administrators are the most likely to first confront the problems of violence or bullying, though they’ll then turn to the officer for help on available resources or procedures. The school-based officer is a resource, a resource that knows the place, the procedures and the personnel. He or she is a trusted conduit for staff – to ask questions, to seek advice, to inquire about resources, someone with knowledge of both the school and criminal-justice system. Often, the educators are simply seeking confirmation for a plan they have already devised. They’re coming to the officer because of the trust that’s been built on his or her day-to-day presence.

Schoolhouse officers will tell you that that their work has little to do with making arrests, very little to do with law-enforcement. They’re on the scene largely as a resource. Thus, the term “resource officers.”

The needs don’t go way simply because an officer is not in the building. And consider what happens when there’s no on-going police presence at our schools. When there’s a problem – an incident, an issue, a question – the school and its educators – must turn to the neighborhood police resource, and their call goes to the back of the queue.  And when (if) an officer finally shows up or calls back, that officer is likely unfamiliar with the special environment of the school, the players, procedures, culture, etc.

I’m told that in Portland, at least, reporting of child abuse is down. There could be other reasons for this – the impact of the pandemic on school attendance, for example – but one reason might be that there are no officers at school for these kids or their teachers to report suspected abuse to. It’s worth noting that in Portland – Portland of all places – there are quiet talks to bring police back to some public schools.

Unfortunately, we might have another mass shooting here in Oregon, though the annual probability an American child will die in a  mass shooting at school is ten million to one.  After a shooting you know our immediate response will be to bring back resource officers, and everyone will blame everyone else for not having had resource officers in the first place. No one will lose their jobs, just parents will have lost their child/ren. So instead of waiting and saying hindsight is 20/20, let’s bring back our resource officers before something terrible happens. For our kids, parents and teachers, in my own 4J School District and elsewhere, it’s high time to bring back the blue in our schools.

Dr Michael Bratland is a dentist and owner of Crisdental in Eugene, Oregon.  He’s a husband and the father of five of his own children and two foster children. He’s running for Eugene 4J school board this May.