To: Members of the Madison School Board of Education
From: The Department of Afro-American Studies
RE: Security Resource Officers
Date: June 29, 2020
As scholars and teachers of African American history and experience – and, for some of us, as parents of current and former Madison public school children — we urge you to vote against continuing the contract between the Madison Metropolitan School District and the Madison Police Department that places School Resource Officers (SROs) in our local schools.
A vast body of research has documented the harmful effects, especially on students of color and Black children in particular, of placing police in schools. The experiences of too many Madison students reaffirm these findings. We know that the presence of law enforcement in schools does little to enhance security or safety for our children. Instead, this policy far too often simply criminalizes behavior that was once handled by school officials, care professionals, and families, but now is managed by law enforcement. An abundance of scholarship also demonstrates how these policies have reinforced the school-to-prison pipeline that has locked up and locked out too many youth, especially African Americans. As a result, youth of color are frequently relegated to a life of limited opportunities and the legal discrimination that entry into the criminal justice system carries with it. Schools must be places of nurturing, supporting, and preparing our young people for a complex and ever-challenging society. While a number of SROs undoubtedly share these goals and make relationship-building a priority, the message that police in schools sends undermines those objectives. Instead of policing, our youth need resources and support services along the lines recommended by Madison Teachers Inc. (MTI) for our schools.
We are heartened to see that members of the Madison School Board, MTI, Common Council, and Mayor’s office have endorsed ending the SRO contract. We hope you will divert the funds previously allocated for SROs to supportive resources that enable all our students to succeed and thrive in our schools.
And finally, we applaud the efforts of Freedom Inc. and the young people who have protested and worked so tirelessly to bring this vitally important issue to wider public attention and to official consideration. As the 19th century abolitionist Fredrick Douglass proclaimed: “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”