Photo depicts Officer Pienkowski (the SRO at J-DHS) standing in the main entrance of the building. Photo Credit: Emilia Patalita
Once again, the presence of a Student Resource Officer (SRO) is up for debate in the Jamesville-DeWitt School District. This, no doubt, is directly correlated to the rise of distrust in police within the past year and a half. The people that want to remove this position say that we need more counselors in our school and not police officers. However, SROs are extremely beneficial to the community, and there is absolutely no reason to be going after Officer Lindsey Pienkowski. Overall, J-DHS should keep the SRO position in their school.
The main claim of groups wanting to remove the SRO position is that J-D doesn’t need police officers in schools, rather more counselors. However, this isn’t practical as SROs serve very different roles in the building than school counselors do.
By definition, an SRO’s job is not only to stop school shootings, but to also be present during the day (to prevent intruders/trespassers, for example) as well as to be a positive role model for all students. On top of this, they are responsible for breaking up fights among students and keeping an even temper in all situations. Pienkowski has not had to stop a violent situation (and she hopefully never will), but she fulfills the rest of her responsibilities every day. She is present in the hallways, especially during lunch periods, where she stands near the entrance to the cafeterias and greets students.
On the other hand, a counselor’s job, by definition, is to help students’ self-esteem, confront bullying, help students create a reasonable academic path, and at J-D, help create school schedules. These two jobs are completely different, so it is illogical to say one could replace the other. Additionally, the high school already has six counselors/psychologists students can refer to for help, why does it need more?
The second main reason people are wary of SROs is because they carry a gun on them. While this is an understandable fear, it is not a justification to remove the position entirely. Pienkowski has never taken her gun out of the holster in school, or even her taser. These two tools are used as a safety net just in case something terrible were to happen. For example, in the unlikely case that there was a school shooting at J-DHS, Pienkowski would be able to get into action immediately while more police were on the way. This, in turn, would save lives.
Something very similar to this happened at Dixon High School in Dixon, Illinois. An armed gunman entered the building with a nine-millimeter semi-automatic rifle. Luckily, they were unable to harm any students because the SRO was able to step in and stop the situation beforehand. The gunman was wounded with a non-lethal injury, and no one, including the officer, was harmed. This quick-thinking and reaction time saved many lives, and it continues to save more across the country.
While it’s clear that Dixon High School needed an SRO that day, the question comes back to if J-D needs one. According to a Brookings study on student resource officers, if the officers themselves are able to create a good relationship with the students, they are undoubtedly effective and useful. While there is no direct correlation between an SRO and a safer school, there is a direct correlation between a good relationship with law enforcement and safer schools.
Pienkowski has made herself present in the school. She’s always visibly talking to someone during times of traffic throughout the school day whether that be a teacher or a student. This is the type of relationship the school needs; this is the type of relationship that students need to grow up around. The only way to regain the public trust of police officers is to show them doing more than just arresting people. Overall, J-D has no reason to, and should not, terminate the SRO position at the high school.