By Emily Cox
BLOOMINGTON – School resource officers will no longer be armed in the Monroe County Community School Corp.
During Tuesday’s regular meeting of the MCCSC board, the board voted to approve the policy change, with board member Martha Street casting the lone no vote.
The MCCSC currently has two armed SROs who are police officers who work within the entire school district. The district also has 13 security guards who are not armed.
At last month’s regular board meeting, policies related to school safety were up for first reading and board President Cathy Fuentes-Rohwer asked Superintendent Judy DeMuth to provide a policy for second and final reading that would eliminate carry permissions for SROs while on school property, given the board’s concern for student safety.
Before the vote, Street made a motion to delay the vote until “we have further study and until our new superintendent comes on board.” No one seconded the motion, so it failed.
Board member April Hennessey said she understands walking into a school building and having some fear.
“But I also think that we have a commitment to make to all the students and adults in the buildings not to front load our schools with fear,” Hennessey said. “And I do think that for many people guns signal or signify that we have something to be afraid of. And I think for many of our students who have grown up in unsafe home environments or in complicated relationships with law enforcement, that in and of itself can be triggering.”
Hennessey said she hopes the district will front-load its schools with the language of expectation and possibility and said this was not a flippant decision.
“If we say that schools are safe, then we have to lean into that,” she said.
Board member Jacinda Townsend Gides said a lot of research indicates no SROs have prevented school shootings with the discharge of a weapon. She said that causes quite a bit of fear in her and she can’t imagine how much fear that might cause a teenager.
During public comment prior to the vote, Keith Williams of the Indiana SRO Association said he already had emailed the board and received a kind response. He thanked them for that “in the times right now where everybody is attempting to demonize each other just simply for having differing opinions.”
He said school is where magic happens and said hundreds of officers across the state see and want to protect that. But he also said law enforcement “absolutely” has issues that need to be addressed. Williams said he retired from regular law enforcement in 2019 because he was tired of all the indiscretion. He urged the board to wait on a vote and to consider both good and bad consequences throughout the summer, then asked for the opportunity to sit down with the board in a private setting and to have a meaningful conversation so they could make as informed of a decision as possible.
In an emailed public comment, Brandy Rayles, a nurse in the district, said it’s absurd to take drastic actions without consulting the SROs or school staff. Rayles said she has asked an SRO to be present with her when speaking with angry parents on multiple occasions and said she wouldn’t have felt safe otherwise.
“I agree that smart gun legislation and parent education is essential,” she wrote. “However, even if we assume that everyone would actually comply with such legislation, it isn’t yet in place. Disarming SROs without changing the social and political situation first is like a doctor removing the tourniquet before repairing the bleeding artery.”
This article was made available through Hoosier State Press Association.