DENVER (KDVR) — Friday’s walkout at East High school has shed light on the debate of whether school resource officers would bring more safety.
Denver Public Schools did away with SROs back in 2020. Advocates claimed the presence of law enforcement has sometimes done more harm than good, especially for students of color.
But some students at East High say things have changed. Lillian Jordan and Alaijah Sims are among the students who feel the return of student resource officers could be a step in the right direction.
“Having an SRO would mean active support in the building,” Jordan said.
In SRO debate, some students at odds with school board
But during Friday’s walkout, school board members still said no, including School Board Vice President Auon’tai Anderson.
“That’s just not proven in science that (a school resource officer) actually reduces gun violence in our schools,” Anderson said. “We’ve seen tragedies in Uvalde and Parkland where SROs were present and kids still died. Safety, it can’t be about feeling safe, it has to be about actually being safe.”
But these students say feeling safe is a large part of being safe.
“I shouldn’t have to fight for SROs to be in the building,” Sim said. “I should feel safe enough without them, but we have had way too many instances where I feel SROs could have been a help in our building and they just weren’t there.”
As young women of color, Sims and Jordan say they understand the discomfort some feel around the police and the reasoning behind the original removal.
“We’ve never been asked our opinions on this and it seems like of course, that was the problem when they first got rid of them, but things have changed and a lot of opinions have changed. I know mine has definitely changed. I agreed when they removed SROs in 2020, but now I am at a school that has been affected by gun violence and I don’t feel safe,” Sims said.
Former SRO weighs in on school safety
Former SROs share that sentiment. Stacey Collis was an SRO for decades and now teaches potential SROs.
“An SRO is that person, that entity, that is there to help bridge that gap to going into the community,” he said. “The more resources we put out there, the better off we will be, and an SRO is just another tool on the tool belt.”
While these students believe an SRO could help, they say stricter gun laws are the main goal.
“SROs should be a last resort. There should be many stops in place before we get to the point of there being a weapon or a dangerous situation on campus, but right now that’s not the reality. So until our government listens to us and puts those stops in place, I think SROs are our best thing. “ Sims said.
After SROs were removed from the schools, more mental health resources were put in place. Students said Friday that those have been helpful.