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.