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Parents and community members voice their opinions about the SRO program in La Crosse schools

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW) - The contract for the SRO program in the School District of La Crosse is set to expire in June 2021.

Sara Graves, an SRO officer's wife, said School Resource Officers do much more than people think, like purchasing school supplies, sports equipment, event helping supply meals for students.

"SRO's are more than just an officer in schools. They are counselors, friends, big brothers, sisters, parental figures, protectors, and ultimately someone the students can rely on and trust," Graves said. "There shouldn't even be a thought to take SRO's away from our schools."

Joshua Wilke, a teacher for the School District of La Crosse, believes SRO's have negative impacts on students, especially students of color.

"There are charts, graphs and studies that show what the relationship-based policing approach does, and its call the 'School to Prison Pipeline,'" Wilke said. "I am familiar with the 'School To Prison Pipeline' and 'Trauma-Informed-Care.' I feel like it would be hypocritical for me to support SRO's in the school as an educator."

Marlie O'Brien, a mother who has a child who attends La Crosse Public Schools, believes SRO's keep the school safe.

"I can honestly say there have been many times over the past four years where I would not have sent my son to school if there had not been an SRO present," O'Brien said. "We live in a time where there are more school shootings and attacks in schools."

Clair Stobb, a former student in the district, said she believes schools need more counselors and mental health support in replace of SRO's.

"As a white student, I was not policed in school, but I regularly saw my classmates of color pulled out of classes, stopped in the halls, and generally supervised by our SRO," Stobb said. "I don't think its any question that SRO's did not make a positive experience for my friends of color."

Dr. Aaaron Engel, Superintendent of the School District of La Crosse, said the district's primary goal is to make sure all students feel comfortable.

The school board's decision on whether or not to terminate or extend the SRO program will be made sometime in November.

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Lindsey Ford

Lindsey Ford is a multimedia journalist.

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