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Dean Loumos and AnnaMarie Moffit: State Journal editorial distorted our committee’s ERO recommendations

October 14, 2018 GMT

As the former chairs of the Madison School District’s Education Resource Officer Ad Hoc, we found the State Journal’s editorial on Sept. 30 deeply concerning for several reasons.

First and foremost, it perpetuated the incorrect rhetoric that the ERO Ad Hoc Committee was a committee created to get the police out of our schools. This is false.

Our charge was to review the current contract, study current research and best practices, and then make recommendations to the School Board on contract language and board policy changes. The charge of the committee is posted on the School Board website, as well as the full 20-page report that lists the recommendations along with a full list of topics and the dozens of people we met with.

Go to bit.ly/2pPpK5q to see the documents.

When media outlets circulate inaccurate information to the public, it not only diminishes trust, but it also increases the likelihood of creating conflict and confusion. It may sell papers, but it can lead to folks being put in unsafe situations that are unnecessary.

Second, your editorial suggested that police officers should be engaged in enforcing school discipline. Our committee spent over a year reviewing best practices from all over the country. The clearest and most consistent comment we heard, which was supported by a long standing agreement with the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO), specifically emphasizes that school resource officers should not be involved in addressing classroom or hallway behavior. Their assignment lists other responsibilities.

One of the recommendations codifies this language, so that our EROs are not being used in school situations that are inappropriate, and may pull them away from their designated work. Would you hire a law enforcement official to walk around your office and make sure folks were at their desks and completing their assignments? Absolutely not.

Additionally, we have consistently stated that having an ongoing relationship with the Madison Police Department is “an operational imperative” for our school district. Our current contract pays the entire salary, which is uncommon in comparison to other districts, for the EROs to work at our four main high schools at a price of $434,000 per year, including $24,000 for four patrol cars that are infrequently used by officers.

We also have nearly 80 other school sites that we are responsible for that do not have officers stationed in the school. By establishing set policies and practices, which your editorial board identified as bureaucratic red tape, clear expectations and lines of communication are created for when officers are interacting with our students. This is no different from any of our school staff, and it’s disappointing that your view is that our law enforcement officials should not be accountable or be held to similar expectations as our staff, students and the broader community.

Ultimately, the committee agreed to a comprehensive set of recommendations that do not include removing police from schools, at this time, but also codify clear expectations, job responsibilities and public oversight so all of our schools are safe and healthy spaces for all of our students.