Madison School Safety Enters Uncharted Territory

by Safety Connection

Students are beginning to return to Madison high schools, which should be exciting and welcomed news. But for some, there are concerns beyond catching the virus. This will be the first time in years that our students will be in the schools without a School Resource Officer (Madison Police Department officer) on the premises full-time. What could go wrong?

Gun violence among teens has grown dramatically, with a triple shooting/homicide just across the street from two MMSD schools in the middle of the day on Halloween. Three teens were involved in the shooting of 11-year-old Anisa Scott last summer. Two MMSD teens were charged in a double homicide as well.

The Midtown District, for one example, covers a large area which also includes two high schools and three hospitals along with a lot of dense housing. During the morning shift, there are 5 patrol officers in all of Midtown, a sixth one starts at noon. There are plenty of times throughout the day when all officers are tied up. Gone are the days when a dedicated officer is in the school building, ready to respond to any need at any given moment. The new reality is that when the 911 call comes in, whichever officer is closest to the school and available will respond. This officer will likely not have training to work with this age group, will not know the students and staff and what issues may be ongoing or may have occurred in the past. And the officer may not even be familiar with the layout of the school. This is especially concerning at Memorial High School which can be confusing. Sometimes every second counts.

But School Resource Officers did much more than just respond to emergency situations. They served as trusted role models for kids. They played ball and hung out with the students and built relationships. And by personally getting to know students they were able to identify those who needed help, and they could prevent fights and discourage kids from joining gangs. Teachers and other administrators depended on them to help solve complex situations so that 911 never had to be called. SROs could respond instantly and they had special training to know how to engage with this age group.

Despite repeated requests, MMSD refused to survey current students, teachers, faculty and parents before they made the decision to cancel the SRO contract last summer. Many teachers and administrators were against this move and are concerned about the ramifications. Despite reassurances that the high schools would come up with security plans to ensure student and staff safety, requests to find out what those plans might be have gone unanswered.Do you have a student at an MMSD high school? Consider calling or emailing your child’s principal, the superintendent, and the school board to inquire about what safety plans are in place.

Superintendent Dr. Carleton Jenkins:

Board of Education:

MMSD Staff Directory:

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