School nurses emphatically want a police officer to stay in each of Madison’s main high schools.
The School Board should strongly consider the nurses’ perspective as well as the views of other staff, students and parents — not just the loudest voices demanding the cops leave.
All nine of the school nurses at East, La Follette, Memorial and West high schools sent a letter to the board and Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham on Tuesday, “imploring” school leaders to keep a school resource officer (SRO) in each of the city’s four main high schools. The School Board still needs to finalize a new contract with the city for the SRO program to continue next fall.
“It is difficult to imagine doing our work without the support of our” school police officers, the nurses write in the letter.
“Many staff we have spoken with will seriously consider leaving their jobs without” an officer on site, the letter states.
High school nurses in Madison deal with a lot more than illness and disease. They respond to difficult situations involving weapons, assaults, gangs and drugs, and they rely on school-based officers to help manage those issues.
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The officers respond quickly to threats of violence, and they reduce dispatch time for emergency medical services, according to the nurses. Officers have disarmed individuals in school, and they provide a sense of security when volatile conflicts occur.
“While we embrace the need to think of new ideas for positive solutions for our challenges,” the nurses write, “the removal of the community officer is not the answer. We fear this solution will come at the detriment of the public health of our school community.”
The four police officers assigned to Madison’s high schools work proactively to get ahead of problems. They help create weekly school safety plans, defuse conflicts and build rapport with students, earning “great respect,” according to the nurses.
“Despite the public perception being put forth,” the nurses write, “our (school police officers) offer heart, not hurt.”
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The school nurses are just the latest district employees to voice support for keeping officers in the high schools. Madison Teachers Inc., the union representing about 4,000 teachers, educational assistants, clerical technical employees, school security assistants and substitute teachers has endorsed school-based police.
With our nation marking the 20th anniversary of the mass shooting at Columbine High School this week, and with ongoing concern about school violence across the country, the Madison School Board and city should finalize a contract for the officers to stay put. The officers protect and make positive connections with our teenagers. They help school nurses promote public health, and help teachers foster learning.