Indiana Daily Student

Debate over whether to arm MCCSC school officers dominates public comment at school board meetings

<p>Students board busses at Bloomington High School South on Sept. 13, 2021. The Monroe County Community School Corporation voted to disarm School Resource Officers nearly a year and a half ago in May 2021.</p>

Students board busses at Bloomington High School South on Sept. 13, 2021. The Monroe County Community School Corporation voted to disarm School Resource Officers nearly a year and a half ago in May 2021.

The Monroe County Community School Corporation voted to disarm School Resource Officers nearly a year and a half ago in May 2021. Yet, this decision remains a point of controversy amongst the MCCSC community today, arising during the school board candidate forum and dominating the public comment portion of school board meetings.  

Since the board’s 6-1 vote to bar SROs from carrying firearms, there have been three incidents of guns found on MCCSC property. In September 2021, a gun was found at Bloomington High School South. Just two weeks later, an airsoft pistol caused the school to go into lockdown. More recently, a Batchelor Middle School student was arrested Sept. 13 after an SRO confiscated a loaded gun the student brought on the bus. 

Elizabeth Bullock, mother of a BHSS sophomore, has been advocating for rearming SROs during the public comment portion of MCCSC school board meetings for over a year. At the Sept. 27 meeting, Bullock praised the school corporation's handling of the Batchelor Middle School incident but said the incident proves the need for a robust SROs force.  

“I’m grateful the gun threat was mitigated quickly and that parents were informed,” Bullock said. “That being said, I think this incident again highlights why we continue to have concerns about the prevalence of guns in the hands of our children.”  

Bullock said MCCSC hired armed security for homecoming weekend events, a move she supported but said seemed hypocritical considering the board’s stance against arming SROs.  

“This action seems a little incongruent with the board’s position on disarming School Resource Officers,” Bullock said. “This isn’t the first time that social events have included armed security. So why is armed security for the school campus appropriate for homecoming events but not for the school day?” 

Prior to the board’s vote, two of the school corporation’s 15 SROs were armed. The National Association of School Resource Officers and the Indiana School Resource Officers Association put out a joint statement May 20, 2021, condemning the decision. 

In addition to arming SROs, Bullock asked the MCCSC school board to consider a partnership with Bloomington Police Department and Monroe County Sheriff’s Office. Bullock acknowledged some people feel distrustful of law enforcement considering national movements against police brutality, but she cited the upcoming Nov. 8 sheriff election as a way for the community to vote for trustworthy leadership. 

“I know there are strong feelings and stigma associated with law enforcement in our country, but I do believe it’s possible to collaborate and address disparities and disproportionality if the right people are at the table,” Bullock said.  

Individuals are given three minutes to speak during the public comment period of MCCSC school board meetings, and Bullock concluded her time with a plea for the board to approve any resources possible to ensure school safety.  

“The safety of our children is a community issue, it’s not just a school problem,” Bullock said. “That means the community — all of us — need to come together. We’re all invested in this. We’re waiting. We’re ready to join you in protecting our most vulnerable youth.” 

Maria Douglas, another MCCSC parent, joined Bullock in asking the board to revisit the issue of arming SROs. Like Bullock, Douglas has consistently spoken out about school safety, even taking a moment at the Sept. 27 meeting to recognize her one-year anniversary of advocating for school safety at board meetings.  

Douglas said she felt disappointed to hear school board candidates citing Florida research to support disarming SROs. Douglas said current school board candidates are continuing the current board’s rhetoric of citing data against the arming of SROs from states that lack Indiana’s extensive training laws.  

“Remember that there can hardly be data on what violence has been deterred from SROs having all the tools that they need to do their job because it doesn’t actually happen,” Douglas said.  

Douglas also said she supports expanding mental health resources and other forms of gun violence prevention.  

“For me, this is a ‘yes and...’ situation,” Douglas said. “It’s not just arm the SROs and that's it. I want every precaution to be taken to protect our children and staff.” 

Jenny Robinson, another MCCSC parent, offered a different perspective. Robinson said she shares Bullock and Douglas’ concern about guns found on MCCSC property, but she supports the board’s position against arming SROs. 

“With every new incident of a shooting in a school, I feel again both fear and heartache,” Robinson said. “When my kids leave in the morning for school, the fact that many children may have access to guns is in the back of my mind. Still, I do not believe introducing weapons into the mix is the answer.” 

Robinson said research does not support arming SROs as an effective form of violence prevention. A June 2022 study by Poynter Institute found no connection between the presence of armed officers in schools and the deterrence of violence.  

Instead, Robinson proposed creating school programs that train parents how to properly keep guns away from children. Robinson also said fostering a positive school environment goes a long way in preventing violence. 

“Relationships of trust I believe are more powerful than any metal detector or the threat of any armed response by an officer,” Robinson said. “They work in another way entirely, one that would be undermined by metal detectors, clear backpacks and guns.” 

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