In the last school year police were called 640 times to Madison’s four high schools. That’s an average of about 3.5 times a day or almost once per day to each school. According to a story in this morning’s Wisconsin State Journal the breakdown is 220 calls to East, 158 to La Follette, 170 to Memorial and 92 to West.
In addition to the raw numbers there were several serious and dangerous incidents. Two melees occurred outside of East, a student brought a loaded gun to La Follette and had to be subdued, and an autistic student was beaten by classmates. In another incident a teacher stood by (as he believed he was required to do by district policy) while his classroom erupted into a brawl. (And, by the way, the district has 141 teacher vacancies only weeks before the new school year begins, compared to just 30 at this same point in 2018.)
All this happened in the first full in-person school year without School Resource Officers, which had been assigned to the high schools for about three decades without incident. The School Board removed the officers in 2020, over the objections of the Police Chief but with the support of Mayor Satya Rhode-Conway.
Now, Police Chief Shon Barnes has proposed assigning a neighborhood officer to the areas around each of the schools. They would not be stationed inside of the schools, which was the objection offered so aggressively by the radical activist group Freedom, Inc.
In a sane world you’d think that the Superintendent, the Board, the Mayor and the City Council would rush to support Barnes’ proposal. But this is Madison, so you’d be wrong about that.
In this morning’s story, written by Chris Rickert, the district spokesman, the Board members, the Mayor and the City Council President were noncommittal, had no comment or couldn’t be found. The district’s press guy, Tim LeMonds, was quick to distance the district from the proposal, making it clear that the request didn’t come from them.
Here’s a follow up question I have for LeMonds: Why the heck DIDN’T the district request this? And why is every responsible official terrified to give the obvious answer to the Chief’s request, which would be “Yes!”?
Unfortunately, I can answer that last question. The answer is that the hard-left has dreamed up ridiculous theories of race politics, and Madison pols, even those who know better, are afraid to speak against them. The ridiculous theory in this case is that having cops in (or now, I guess, even around) schools is somehow an example of oppression. Never mind that most of the SRO’s were women or people of color who provided fine role models. Never mind that in three decades there had never been an incident where they abused their authority. Never mind that the Police Chief himself is Black. Never mind that the cops are still in the schools everyday anyway, just not there when they might defuse a situation instead of responding to it. And never mind that there is a crisis of order and safety in our schools that demands action which goes beyond yet another committee studying more “root causes.”
The Chief is making a sound proposal here. Any public official who cares about the safety of our schools and who has an ounce of common sense will support it. And, I suppose I need to add to that, an ounce of courage as well.