Petitions, concerns circulating in Bloomington and St. Paul over school resource officers

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Just three weeks ago Minneapolis Public Schools severed ties with Minneapolis Police and its school resource officers (SRO).

"I don't feel like the original purpose is being served anymore," said one high school student who signed a petition supporting the district's decision.

Now more petitions and discussions are popping up in other school districts. 

The St. Paul school board will discuss its contract with St. Paul police for school resource officers at Tuesday night's board meeting.

In Bloomington, a petition has signatures from community members, teachers, current and former students.

It demands school resource officers to be disarmed, and that Bloomington police stop arresting students during school hours.

James Densley is a criminal justice professor at Metropolitan State University. He says the vast majority of school interactions don't require someone with a badge and a gun.

"Increasingly the police have become the first line of defense for every and all social problems; these are issues that before would’ve been resolved in the principal's office or in the teacher's classroom or with a counselor," he said.

Minneapolis Public Schools votes to terminate service with MPD for school resource officers

Densley says school staff needs to be trained in crisis intervention, conflict management and de-escalation techniques and says a program that has worked on the streets between police and ex-offenders could be beneficial in schools.

"You would have credible people from the community, people with credibility, with respect that understand the students, that people know and like, and you could have them throughout the hallways de-escalating those conflicts instead of having to always resort to a peace officer," he shares.

Densley says if districts do what Minneapolis has done, there needs to be a fully-funded plan in place, not just a Band-Aid.

"The risk is you pull back and there’s nothing there to replace it and then you end up with a vacuum and in that vacuum really bad things happen," he said.

Minneapolis schools have said it will have a school safety plan in place in August before school resumes.

Bloomington schools did not respond to requests about the petition that is circulating in the community.

St. Paul school board members are expected to discuss district and community concerns over SRO's at the school board meeting Tuesday, June 23.