SRO debate causes conflict

Mackenzie Miller and Lizy Westbrook, Guest Writer

  The controversy around removing the School Resource Officer, a sworn law enforcement officer responsible for the safety of students at Gresham High School,  recently caused tension amongst students. As allegations of discrimination, assault, and abuse of power against students of color surfaced,  students began to vocalize their opinions about having an SRO on campus.  

  After the murder of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man in Minneapolis, and the uprise of Black Lives Matter protests, schools across the country, including Portland Public Schools disbanded their SRO program. After town halls and community feedback sessions in 2019 and 2020, Gresham decided to keep their SRO program, which featured Officer Gleason as the on-campus police officer. 

  About a month ago, a group of students called Students Against Oppression formed a stance against SRO’s, creating an online and written petition to remove student resource officers from Gresham high school.

  “A huge concern we have with SRO’s in the school is the safety of our peers we have heard, witnessed, or been subjected to the abuse of power and targeting done by this SRO. We have also seen across the country officers in other schools taze, shoot, tackle, and use force against a majority of students of color,” one of the admins in SAO, Amber Antonich said.

  This topic caused a separation of views between the student body.  Another group, called Support our SRO formed in support of keeping the current SRO and not getting rid of the program. 

  “He [the Sro that was at Gresham] is a mentor for all of us and was guiding us through life and school,” senior Dominick Blades said. “What are our security monitors going to do against a gun or a knife or even a baseball bat? They don’t have tasers or mace or any weapon of any kind. That puts everyone’s safety at risk and the people who don’t understand that are blind.” 

  After the November 18th school board work session the school district announced the reassignment of the SRO.

   “The Gresham high school resource officer will be reassigned to district level responsibilities,” Superintendent, James Hui stated.

  Conversations on what school safety could look like without the school resource officer have been a major topic of discussion on campus.

  “We have not yet come up with a set alternative plan to SROs but we are demanding for more mental health counselors, teachers to be trained in de-escalation, and a community-based safety team” one of SAO’s admins, Amber Antonich stated.

  Some still believe SRO’s are needed in the school building and have thought of ways an SRO could remain on campus and appease all students. 

  “Well, they [students not for the SRO] are all about propaganda and want all white cops removed. One thing that might make them feel safe is getting an SRO of color which I think is a good idea,” senior and  member of the support group for the SRO, David Owens said

  Others believe the SRO does not make all students feel safe and they should not be on campus at all.

  “People feel uncomfortable by them. I think SROs should stay outside of the school” freshman Aasif Benke said. 

  While there are many differing opinions on this topic, both on our campus and nationwide, many in the community are left wondering when a final decision about the future of the SRO program at Gresham will be made. 

  “At what point do we stop and be proactive in these situations instead of waiting for something to happen and then be reactive”  SAO member, Amber Antonich said.