Opinion: SROs Do Not Deter Violence

by | Oct 14, 2022

Submissions are welcome – send to [email protected]. The last day to submit an opinion column (or letters to the editor) about the Nov. 8 election is Oct. 25, two weeks before election day (11/8).

By Nicole Bucka

The recent EG News opinion, “Research Supports SROs in Elementary Schools,” by Peter Rogers, Town Council candidate, directly references me. I’d appreciate an opportunity to speak for myself. SROs in schools is a School Committee decision, so I am curious as to why a Town Council candidate is weighing in on that, but I would ask East Greenwich residents, when considering that op-ed and Mr. Roger’s blog post to a) look at the sources cited (are they military and policing organizations – or – education and/or medical/mental health experts?) and b) follow the link and read the actual report referenced – it stresses mental health in schools.  

As I stated in the East Greenwich School Committee candidate forum, educational research has been clear for over a decade that SROs in schools do not deter violence. In the rare cases that research showed an SRO did actually help, it was because the officer acted as a needed adult mentor to a student who was struggling emotionally. If we are going to dedicate $500,000 of taxpayer dollars to add an SRO to each elementary school building, as Mr. Rogers suggests, then why don’t we put those funds towards actually having trained mental health providers?  

East Greenwich School District has had a documented lack of school social workers and school psychologists since our 2018 Caruolo Action/Basic Education Plan programmatic audit where the School Committee sought to answer the question: Are we/the school district meeting our basic obligations? In behavioral and mental health supports, even back then, pre-COVID, we weren’t. In addition, we just recently had a Special Education Family Survey that showed that behavioral needs are not being adequately met. Our staff see when students are struggling and need help, but there is inadequate staff with this expertise to support the needs. We can take that $500,000 and use it more appropriately than SROs in our elementary schools.

In addition, I would say, “Let’s ask our students and our staff.” In last spring’s Surveyworks school climate survey data (which came right after the Uvalde tragedy), 71 percent  of the 1,700 East Greenwich students who completed the survey said that they feel safe in their school. Of the 29 percent who didn’t, most cited bullying as a root cause. In addition, 75 percent of the over 1,000 East Greenwich families who completed the survey said their children are safe in school with the other 24 percent saying stress and interpersonal challenges get in the way. SROs don’t solve those issues: bullying, stress, and interpersonal relationships challenges – school psychologists and school social workers do as well as all staff supporting social emotional learning (SEL) and often educational leaders tap those experts as leaders in that work, as well.   

I support the police as important public servants. My father and brother are both police officers (my father is retired). These are kids, not criminals, and these are schools, not the streets. I do not support adding an SRO to each of our elementary schools and this has been my stance consistently. If you’d like to read the open letter I shared with our community last May in response to the Uvalde tragedy, you can do so here: shorturl.at/em149.

Nicole Bucka is a candidate for reelection to the East Greenwich School Committee.

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October 15, 2022 8:04 am

I 100% agree. The need for mental healthcare for children and young adults is a national crisis.

October 15, 2022 10:13 am

These conversations should not be controversial.

In his comments, Mr. Rodgers referred to multiple sources. In his LTE, he referenced the US Secret Service report to the Department of Justice as well as research from the Government Accountability Office.

By the way, the Secret Service is not a military organization. And Ms. Bucka also cited that same source in her open letter on this topic. In his blog posts, Rodgers cited researchers from Jon Jay College of Criminal Justice, Michigan State, USC, etc. He provided links to 10 news organizations that described examples of SROs averting school violence.

Are we really concerned that our SROs will arrest elementary school children for using cell phones?

We even employ SROs in our middle and high school — under your leadership. The common sense Democrats in our General Assembly, including Evan Shanley, agree that school security depends on a multi-faceted approach including SROs.

Mr. Rodgers stated that he supports enhancing mental health supports in schools but explained that he is also concerned about the 50% of cases where school shooters were NOT students.

Furthermore, whether students “feel safe” has nothing to do with whether they ARE safe. And if SROs are so harmful, why do all the private schools have not only security officers, but cameras, gates and swipe cards? I’ll tell you why – because it is not only reasonable but basic common sense to protect our children.

Give Me a break
Give Me a break
October 16, 2022 8:42 am
Reply to  Jody

Private schools have all those security measures in place because when you’ve got people paying upwards of $30k a year, it’s not just about keeping “bad guys” out but showing how exclusive it is and “look, we’ve got top of the line security, your thousands of dollars are well spent.” It’s foolish to compare the security measures of private schools to those of public schools. If ya’ll care so much about what private schools are doing compared to public schools, why are you only focused on the security? What about rallying this hard around more language education in younger grades? Why not adopt the incredible DEI initiatives the private schools have in place? What about looking at how they handle the mental health of their students? How about seeing how our booklists compare to theirs and adding some of the titles their using? But that won’t happen because you only want to pick and choose what serves the current agenda.

October 15, 2022 10:17 am

Well-said and consistent with evidence-based research in child psychiatry and psychology.

Michelle Jones
Michelle Jones
October 15, 2022 2:54 pm

Mr. Rodgers clearly stated in his LTE that he supports additional mental health support services in our schools. He also described in detail that funding for SROs would come primarily from federal and state grants. If tax money must also be used, it need not deplete the school budget in any way. This should not be an either/or consideration. Furthermore, I’m pleased to see a town council candidate weighing in on this topic as it is the town council that overseas the police funding and applies for these grants. And I’m impressed with Mr. Rodgers’ willingness to share his security concerns with the community. I sincerely hope voters select school committee candidates who will take into consideration the extensive research he provides from a multitude of sources.

Eugene Quinn
October 16, 2022 9:56 am

Superintendent Alexis Meyer commissioned, and the school committee approved funding for, a comprehensive review of district security by a team of qualified security professionals headed, as it turned out, by an EGHS alum. It was tasked with identifying vulnerabilities and recommending ways to remedy them. For obvious reasons, the results cannot be made public, but I can say that their recommendations included neither eliminating the existing SROs nor adding them at elementary schools. I reviewed the study Mr. Rogers cited from the viewpoint of a professional statistician and while it does not contain any methodological errors, it does not appear to be peer reviewed and the sample size is too small to have enough statistical power to be a convincing argument in favor of modifying the recommendations we have, especially if significant costs are involved.

JodY Stone
JodY Stone
October 16, 2022 1:52 pm

We allow anonymous to comments direct to another commentator with insults and assumptions on this site now? Interesting and Good to know.

1st, it’s y’all. 2nd, do you know how much it costs per child in public schools? Money is not the excuse. 3rd, I have no idea where you are getting your quotes about bad guys but this is a very uninformed and uneducated opinion on the why and does absolutely nothing to discredit the necessity.

Ignorance is no excuse for arrogance.

The safety of our children should be the priority of all schools. As for your other misdirected complaints, I don’t have answers for you. Instead of insulting me – why not go ask the current school committee members about why you school hasn’t implemented certain things. Seems like you’re projecting your disappointment in the wrong direction – so, you give me a break.

Jane D.
Jane D.
October 17, 2022 5:28 pm

One excellent point I agree with is that EG News doesn’t censor anyone. Glad that was pointed out. I know some saw the heckling at the forum last week as a healthy part of the political process. I’d imagine that same contingency would feel the same way about lively discourse in a public comment section. 

As for insults, what I see is one person commenting on the ideas another person shared in a public forum. They don’t agree. They shared there own perspective. No insults, nothing personal. Assumptions? Those can happen with opinions. Insults would be more like having a Twitter account or Facebook page/group where someone shares posts and screenshots and says vile, hateful things trying to discredit someone without having any expertise or factual information. I haven’t seen anyone in these comments stoop to that lowlife level. Insults are personal.

Student safety 100%, without a doubt. Healthy, lively discourse? Also 100%. 


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