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Officers in schools is false choice

A recent editorial unfairly criticized the Champaign school board’s deliberation over school resource officers.

The reluctance expressed by some board members to fully support the officers is understandable. They must balance the favorable input received from some in their district with misgivings about having armed officers in their schools.

This tension is familiar because it was experienced on the Urbana school board, where I have been a member for the last 12 years.

Despite my public position opposing the officers, I knew many who thought they were our only tool to address serious fights in our schools. That false choice — police in our schools or out-of-control students — distracts from the measures we know create safer, more effective school environments — mental-health professionals, robust extracurricular options, small class and case sizes that allow our educators to successfully connect with students.

Additionally, the officers create a false sense of security as illustrated by the school shootings in Parkland, Fla., and Columbine, Colo., despite officers’ presence.

I am proud that both the Champaign and Urbana school boards have made racial equity an explicit focus. Many of our community’s leading racial-equity voices — the NAACP, the Ministerial Alliance, the Trauma Resilience Initiative — tell us that police in our schools undermines that commitment, negatively affects school climate and contradicts best practices in trauma-informed care.

If our schools are to be leaders for racial equity, we must listen to those voices and help others understand what our schools need to be safe, supportive and effective for all.

PEGGY PATTEN

Urbana

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