Whether you know Officer Johnson as a familiar face in the hallway or the man protecting our school, most parents know him as an “Educational Resource Officer (ERO)”. ERO’s have been appreciated for their jobs overall. Some seem to relate to the students, like Officer Johnson, and they get to know the people at that specific school. “Officer Johnson at La Follette is a loved part of our community and is a great role model for many kids.” Madeline Zwergel (12) said. However other ERO’s, in general, have sparked a ton of controversy, and the debate hasn’t really been mainstream until after the incline of mass shootings in 2017-2018. As of right now, ERO’s are stationed at every Madison school, but the debate still continues.
The main argument is that ERO’s bring in a lot of racial implications. Many parents of color have expressed concerns for their children when ERO’s are placed in schools. Because of the racial bias exhibited by some police officers, the parents have said they don’t feel safer with an ERO in their child’s school. They feel like their child will become a target which is an unfortunate yet valid argument.
As for some white parents, they don’t see an issue with ERO’s, which isn’t an evil thing. For those who don’t see the issue, they have said that ERO’s do more good than bad. Due to these racial disparities, there has been some tension among the ERO Ad Hoc Committee. Since the debate is over the safety of their children, parents are obviously very passionate and vocal about their concerns. There isn’t a compromise that will satisfy everyone which is the hardest part. The main focus should be on the students, teachers and administration staff that work in those particular schools because they are the ones potentially in danger.
Importantly, some students have expressed feelings of comfort when talking about ERO’s. “As an outsider looking in, many people think that having ERO’s in a school is unnecessary and too invasive but I feel that it provides a sense of safety to many students.” Zwergel continues. Students who feel safer with ERO’s stationed at La Follette aren’t always oblivious to the inequality because there are positives to having officers in high schools. Some students will feel safe and won’t ever feel safe.
Many teachers are also supportive of the ERO program because they not only protect their students, ERO’s protect them. Teachers have fallen victim to mass shootings while protecting their students and with ERO’s there to help, the responsibility and guilt if something did happen isn’t squared solely on their shoulders. “If an emergency situation were to occur, I feel that many students would feel better knowing that there is a trained professional already present at the school.” Zwergel admits.
Whether you believe ERO’s should be in schools or not, the students should be the main priority. Schools are meant for the students to learn and feel safe while doing so. If some students feel unsafe around an ERO, their feeling of safety and security should come first. We all understand that placing ERO’s in schools is a step to make students feel safe, but it seems counterintuitive if a large percentage of the student body feels unsafe. As of right now and probably the near future, ERO’s will remain in Madison schools.