Community should take heed with school resource officers

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Commentary by Caley Concannon

In June, the Boone County Council unanimously approved funding to place school resource officers, or SROs, in all Zionsville schools. The plan was put forward by Chief of Police Robert Knox and Sheriff Mike Nielsen and supported by Zionsville Schools Supt. Scott Robison and the school board.

As a mother of two young children in the district, I applaud the swift attention to the issue of school safety and especially the accompanying plan to offer better wrap-around mental health services at Zionsville Community Schools.

But as parents and community members, we should be cautious about the role of SROs in our schools, and even more importantly remember that “hardening” school measures like this will not solve our nation’s gun violence problem.

Disciplinary decisions should always stay with school administrators and not defer to SROs as recommended by the U.S. Dept. of Education. In reviewing the SRO training materials (offered as an additional 40 hours of instruction to law enforcement), I am encouraged to see attention paid to adolescent development, special needs and diversity/bias training, among other things.

Unfortunately, a big piece is missing from the SRO training, and it’s absolutely essential to reducing gun deaths in our nation: Talking to kids and parents about gun access at home. SROs are in the perfect position to have this conversation on a continuing basis, knowing firsthand the risks of firearms, as they develop mentoring relationships with kids at school. They have a responsibility to lessen the cultural stigma around this subject and to treat responsible gun ownership and storage as a public safety issue and not just a personal decision.

Simply put, children should not have access to firearms at home, and SROs can help in spreading this message.

Every year, nearly 300 children unintentionally shoot themselves or someone else, and 500 more die by suicide with a gun. Of course, these numbers do not include the horrifying instances where a child uses a gun obtained at home in a school shooting, like what happened in Noblesville West Middle School May 25. In 2018, America is sadly averaging more than one school shooting every week. Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense, of which I am a member and new Boone Co. chapter co-lead, has a wonderful program, called BeSMART, to help with the conversation on responsible gun ownership. The acronym stands for: secure guns in homes and vehicles.

Model responsible behavior. Ask about unsecured guns in other homes. Recognize the risks of teen suicide.

Tell your peers to be SMART. I spoke about BeSMART briefly at the county council meeting and I urge schools and law enforcement to consider adding BeSMART to SRO training. If you are also concerned about the problem of gun violence in our nation, I urge you to join Moms Demand Action on Gun Sense. We are nonpartisan and very much welcome gun owners and non-Moms, too.

For more, text ACT to 64433 or visit MomsDemandAction.org.

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