School safety official says cutting officers from campus lengthens response time to emergencies

A top school safety official says recent proposals to get rid of school resource officers could lengthen the response time for an armed officer to prevent tragedies such as a school shooting.

At as Burlington School Board meeting Thursday, the board called for the city to support continued funding for school resource officers, or SROs. Board members also debated a resolution that would have disarmed the officers, but that failed by a 6-5 vote.

On Monday, the Burlington City Council will discuss next year’s budget, including funding for SROs.

Rob Evans, the state’s school safety liaison officer for the Agency of Education and the Department of Public Safety, told True North that SROs play a critical role when there is an emergency.

“There absolutely are circumstances where school resource officers, because they have been there, have hastened the response and have been able to mitigate and lessen some of the potential violence, because of the very quick response from those officers there,” he said.

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SITTING DUCKS? – A top school safety expert says that while school shootings are extremely rare, having a school resource officer will give students a better chance in the case that one happens.

There are examples around the nation of when SROs stopped mass shootings. In Dixon, Illinois, in 2018 an SRO and a former student exchanged gunfire; the officer was able to subdue the attacker and no students were injured. In Ocala Florida that same year, an SRO confronted and arrested a gunman after one student was shot. Many more could have been harmed.

Evans said a mass shooting takes place in a matter of minutes.

“When you look at how fast these things start and how fast these events are over, it’s usually between three, five, and seven minutes from the time that the violence starts to the time that the violence is over,” he said.

He added that having an SRO can make a big difference.

“Just having a school resource officer does not mean that those things won’t happen, but again the quick response if one is on campus certainly leads to a level of preparedness and response that if you don’t have one there, it might be a little bit longer.”

Evans said having an SRO in a school is not the standard — about 30 schools in the state use them. He added these officers have a good record in Vermont and they are not known for racial bias or abuse of power.

“I am not aware of any specific data that shows that is happening here in Vermont,” he said. “Just anecdotally, I am aware of communities that say they have benefited from a school resource program and will continue to invest in programs like that.”

Evans said the programs usually work best when the role of the SRO is focused on interacting with the students and helping them rather than focusing just on discipline and law enforcement.

Some groups, including the Vermont Racial Justice Alliance, oppose SROs.

Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger and Superintendent Tom Flanagan said they are open to having a dialogue with the public on the subject. Among lawmakers, Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington, has voiced concerns about the use of SROs.

Michael Bielawski is a reporter for True North. Send him news tips at bielawski82@yahoo.com and follow him on Twitter @TrueNorthMikeB.

Images courtesy of Essex Westford School District and Wikimedia Commons

3 thoughts on “School safety official says cutting officers from campus lengthens response time to emergencies

  1. Hey, Mom, I just threw out the bath water. To which Mom hopefully asked “you took the baby out, didn’t you?” The response was “oops”. This is exactly what will happen when safety officers are pulled from schools. The sponsors of the removal will scream the loudest when an unpleasant incident occurs.

  2. If somebody was ever to look for drugs in Vermont, 2 places they could get them every day of the week would be our schools and prisons. These are two places they shouldn’t be, but here you go.

    Having witnessed what happens to so many who smoke too much dope or party a bit too much in school……let’s say it’s not always in a young adults best interest. We have not given our populace any wisdom in which to navigate life. We are generations of ill equipped, the uninformed leading the young at heart.

    Our policy adoption has come from the big cities, and Vermont is having big city problems because of it, it’s a simple case of monkey see monkey do. Yes broken families, no hope of getting your own housing, of getting a good job, of good training, that drugs are cool, having kids before marriage is not the wisest plan, yet we reward with money.

    Often there is no discipline in the families, there is no stability or stabilizing force. School is one of the few places where some children experience normal life. We shouldn’t take that too away from them.

    Our country common sense served us so well for so many years, why have we strayed?

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