MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) – Before this year, School Resource Officer (SROs) played a big part in safety in some Madison schools. However, in July, the Madison Common Council finalized the decision to pull them out of four Madison high schools.
The Common Council decision came almost a month after the Madison Metropolitan School District Board voted to remove SROs.
On Thursday, the district’s Safety and Security Ad Hoc Committee met for the first time. The committee is tasked with coming up with new ways to handle security once schools reopen.
The meeting focused on introducing the members and laying out the goals for the next few months.
“I’m pretty psyched to be a part of this team to really think about the quality of safety,” said Vera Naputi, a parent and East High School teacher.
This committee took shape after the MMSD board voted to remove SROs from Madison high schools.
“They were a value in our schools. But I also understood the harm of law enforcement in our young people today and in the historical trauma and damage of law enforcement in general,” said committee co-chair and MMSD board president Gloria Reyes.
Reyes said it will take a collaborative effort to make lasting change. The committee is made up of parents, teachers and members of community organizations.
“We brought together people who are going to be, who are directly impacted,” Reyes explained.
Reyes also said she wants to preserve parts of the SRO program that were successful, especially among students of color.
“It involves having people who look like them in our hallways, who they can relate to, who they respect out in our community,” she said.
The committee will also work to redefine the relationship with Madison police.
“We will be working closely with them to establish our guidelines and protocols,” Reyes explained.
Reyes said her immediate concern is the budget. The committee has to find ways to use funds that would go toward paying SROs.
“It’s the defining what our relationship looks like and reimagining what public safety looks like in our schools,” Reyes described.
Naputi added that she is looking forward to the committee “helping our students find a sense of belonging in our schools.”
The committee aims to give recommendations to the MMSD board in October, but Reyes said she hopes to continue this work into the winter months.
Many of the committee’s recommendations will focus on when schools reopen. MMSD plans to start fall classes with only virtual learning, but Reyes said the committee also wants to keep students safe outside school buildings.
The committee’s next meeting will be on August 27.
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