By Ed Glazer / For The Herald
It is the position of the NAACP Snohomish County that armed personnel do not belong in educational institutions. Their presence is antithetical to what a school is or should be.
Armed police patrolling the halls of many of our secondary schools create an environment suffused with the expectation that criminal or violent behavior is inevitable. That is not the kind of nurturing environment that we want for our children.
The presence of armed police officers exacerbates the trauma deeply felt by many students of color and their families, trauma ingrained in them by their exposure to intimidation and violence by police officers, and the murder by police of countless Black and Brown people in their homes, in their cars, in parks, in stores and on the streets.
Their reactions are also based on their own lived experiences of being intimidated, disproportionately singled out, disciplined and referred to the juvenile justice system. The proverbial “school to prison pipeline” is all too real for Black and Brown students.
It is never acceptable to minimize the trauma experienced by students of color. That trauma is a very personal reality that affects their well-being in every aspect of their lives.
The Everett, Marysville, Arlington, Mukilteo, Lake Stevens, Monroe, Snohomish and Stanwood districts have opted to continue using school resource officers (SROs) in their schools despite the objections raised by students, parents and community leaders. In the case of Everett Public Schools, it is spending more than a half-million dollars for a “resource” that is not a positive educational experience for students of color. Those funds should be spent on strategies that create a supportive environment conducive to learning for all students.
The NAACP Snohomish County stands against having armed police in schools. However, since the school districts have decided to continue to support SRO programs, we demand that they adhere to the letter and the intent of the law that regulates such programs.
Those districts, in conjunction with the state school safety and student well-being advisory committee established in RCW 28A.300.635, should develop prioritized policies and strategies for improving school safety and student well-being, along with estimates of the cost of implementing each recommendation.
According to RCW 28A.310.515, the educational service districts must identify or develop classroom training to address the complexities of working with youths in a school environment.
The NAACP Snohomish County will remain vigilant regarding district programs that place armed police in schools. Our Executive Committee will review the school resource officer training courses offered, as well as documentation that SROs have actually completed such training and are able to demonstrate the proficiencies required.
We will review data on SRO-student interactions, as well as SRO involvement in school disciplinary proceedings. We will continue to review and provide visibility on district policies developed to assure school safety and student well-being, as well as the implementation of those policies. (ref. RCW 28A.320.124)
We urge all community residents to stand together with the NAACP Snohomish County to make sure that our schools provide an equitable, inclusive, encouraging, and supportive learning environment for all students.
Ed Glazer is the education chairman for Snohomish County NAACP’s Executive Committee.