Dear Foothills Community and beyond,
As some of you may be aware, the Community Advisory Committee tasked with evaluating safety in Poudre School District, and specifically, the presence of the Student Resource Officers (SROs) provided their final report a few days ago. As some of you may also be aware, Rev. Sean has served as a part of this Committee, and so we have been able to have a close-up awareness of its work.
After a thorough process, the CAC was not able to reach a full consensus, although a majority came to believe that it was ultimately harmful to keep SROs in schools. They provide many recommendations beyond this point. I’d encourage you to read their entire report, especially since there are currently broad mischaracterizations and misunderstandings circulating regarding the CAC’s work. You can find their full report here.
These mischaracterizations and misunderstandings have been especially lodged at members of the Committee, especially the people of color serving on the CAC. They have been targeted online and in their comments to the School Board alleging that the process is fraudulent, and attacking their character and legitimacy. There is also a campaign directed towards the School Board via letters and online comments to ensure that the status quo is maintained and the CAC’s report disregarded based on a survey sent to PSD parents.
As a person of faith and a religious leader, I believe it is imperative that we create structures and communities that listen and respond not to the loudest voices, or even the majority of voices, but most closely to the voices and experiences of the most vulnerable among us. As Christian scripture would say, the “least of these.”
Especially in our schools, we need to listen to the voices of immigrants and people of color, and to those who know first-hand the trauma of living in a world where their very existence has been targeted by those in power for generations.
I start here because the voices of those pointing to the results of surveys where a large majority support the continued presence of SROs are extremely loud, and could be superficially quite persuasive. But we can’t let these loud voices claiming the imperative of majority rules be confused with a moral imperative. Now is the time to claim a path of moral courage.
When the data clearly show the impact of SRO’s presence on students of color in our schools, and when the history of policing is objectively tied to racism and white supremacy, and today is a key component in the school-to-prison pipeline, the moral and ethical path is clear. We need to remove SROs from our schools and instead focus our funding priorities on counselors and other trauma-informed supports for mental health for our children. While there are undeniably many instances of positive experiences with SROs, and we all believe in ensuring our children are as safe as possible, this is not enough to justify their continued presence every day in our schools.
The data on SROs’ capacity to respond to emergencies is mixed, and there are other ways to ensure we have the efficiency and effectiveness of response originally intended in establishing SROs in the first place. The report from the CAC provides ample examples of the needs and opportunities to better serve our students, and our District needs to pursue and prioritize these recommendations. If you agree, I hope you will join me in lending your voice in support by writing to the School Board and/or posting your support online or in a letter to the Coloradoan.
Especially after this year, when so many of us have experienced firsthand how near trauma may be for any of us, and how stressed our children and school communities may be. We need to respond with resources that heal and transform this trauma rather than magnify it or simply pass it on to another generation.
It will not be easy to resist the loud voices pointing to the surveyed “yes column” of the majority. It will also not be easy to disregard some of our personal experiences with SROs that we like and have found valuable. But this is not ultimately what matters most. But now is the time to hold steady, and trust in a deeper value and a deeper truth that listens to and protects the marginalized and creates a system that puts the needs of the most vulnerable first. Many of us have participated in calls for racial justice over this last year, and have called for urgent reform. Removing SROs from our schools is one way to show that when we hold up signs saying Black Lives Matter, we actually mean it.
Rev. Gretchen Haley
Foothills Unitarian Church