La Crosse teachers, petitioners ask for more school resource officers

LA CROSSE (WKBT) — La Crosse residents are asking the school district to bring back full-time school resource officers.

In 2020, the La Crosse School District reduced SROs in schools from five to three after a committee was put together to assess the program.

“To scale back our SRO program and transition to more proactive social services support for our students,” said Superintendent Aaron Engel.

Now, 73 petitioners, including Logan High School teachers, are asking for them back. Logan teacher Eric Martin spoke at the school board meeting this week.

“We should be a place where every student finds an abundance of sensitivity and support, passion and purpose,” Martin said. “Unfortunately, taking away the SROs made that a little bit harder for us to do.”

Recent research shows statewide support for SROs, according to the Wisconsin Professional Police Association.

“School resource officers make their school safer… schools are less likely to encounter a shooting,” said Jim Palmer, the association’s executive director.

“There were a couple big issues this year that wouldn’t have turned out so well without our SRO on duty,” Martin said.

Martin said the loss of a full time SRO has not helped with teacher burnout or student behavior.

Engel said calls both for and against SROs are not new.

“The response that we’re hearing today is keeping with what we’ve been hearing all along,” Engel said.

Two weeks ago, multiple students asked the school board to remove SROs entirely.

“We need proactive policies in place to determine the root cause of these incidents and address them, rather than a punitive approach that only punishes them after the fact,” said student Allie Schlict.

Engel says the SRO reduction came from the committee’s research, but the committee meets regularly and he is listening to concerns raised at the meetings.

“It’s another piece of context and data that is useful in making good decisions,” Engel said.

School board President Juan Jimenez told News 8 Now in a statement that the SRO advisory committee is still working to advise the superintendent on what actions to take.

If there were to be any change in SRO presence, it would likely come next year, Engel said.

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