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La Crosse superintendent calls for reduction of SRO program

Brad Williams

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La Crosse’s school superintendent calls for change in the SRO program which puts city police in school buildings. 

Aaron Engel says the system of school resource officers (SROs), which has operated almost 30 years, has led to fear among minority and disabled students.

“Our black students and their parents, and our students with disabilities and their parents, report more negative interactions with our SROs and frequently indicate that they (officers) make them feel unsafe at school,” said Engel, reporting to the school board on Monday night.

Members of the public have called for the SRO program to be ended completely. 

Engel wants the number of officers to be lowered from five to three by July, with another officer dropped the following year.  

Some black members of the La Crosse school board said the white community doesn’t realize how much black students fear those school officers. 

Shaundel Spivey put it bluntly: “Our district is contributing to the assassination of black people, black youth,” referring to damage to their emotional condition. “Their dreams, their success, who they can become, right? And we have to really truly think about addressing that.”

Another board member, Keonte Turner, said the reform process proposed by Engel may take too long.

“This should not be a process where we fiddle around, we continue to say ‘Phase in’ by 20-21,” Turner said. “We’re running out of time, a lot of our children are falling in between the cracks.”

The school board could vote on the suggestion at its second meeting in December. 

A native of Prairie du Chien, Brad graduated from UW - La Crosse and has worked in radio news for more than 30 years, mostly in the La Crosse area. He regularly covers local courts and city and county government. Brad produces the features "Yesterday in La Crosse" and "What's Buried on Brad's Desk." He also writes the website "Triviazoids," which finds odd connections between events that happen on a certain date, and he writes and performs with the local comedy group Heart of La Crosse. Brad been featured on several national TV programs because of his memory skills.

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