The Free Press
A majority of area respondents say they support removing resource officers from Mankato Area Public Schools, according to a Free Press online question.
Out of 1.160 total respondents, 780 voters — more than 67% — say they would support a recent push by high schoolers and recent graduates to remove officers from Mankato schools. Another 380 voters disagreed with the proposal.
The group advocating for removing officers worry resource officers disproportionately criminalize Black and brown students and create an environment where many students do not feel safe. They want the funding for resource officers reallocated to other student support services.
But Mankato police and school leaders say their resource officer program is unique in its focus on positive relationship-building. They say the officers spend most of their time educating and mentoring and they don’t make more arrests or issue more citations than they would if they were called to the school when incidents arise.
Mankato Area Public Schools is among many districts that have police officers stationed within some schools. The district and the city of Mankato share the cost. The number of officers has fluctuated between one and four over the years depending on budget constraints, according to Free Press archives.
Currently there are three officers — one stationed at each high school and one at Prairie Winds Middle School.
A number of school districts across the country have severed their partnerships with police departments in recent months, following scrutiny in the wake of the death of George Floyd. In Minnesota the districts include Minneapolis, St. Paul and Winona.
An online petition asking Mankato Area Public Schools to follow suit has received over 1,300 signatures.
“Beyond the criminalization of Black and brown youth, SROs do not contribute to the well being and safety of the student body,” the petition states.
The Free Press online question, sent out Friday, asked, “Do you support a recent push to remove resource officers from Mankato schools?”
There were two options to answer, “yes” or “no.”
Commenters were divided over the proposal, though a majority supported the idea of removing resource officers to hire more counselors. Many said the police presence in schools increases school safety, while others said officers can make students feel unsafe.
“The officers provide a deterrence against armed assaults, which were happening in many schools,” Doug Schaller wrote. “If we pull out the resource officers, how many support arming teachers and staff within the school? Most didn’t believe that to be a solution back then, so the alternative was to post police officers in the schools. If we are not going to make decisions based on history, we are simply going to repeat the tragedies of the past.”
Chris Solyntjes wrote, “For decades I worked with adolescents with behavior issues. Not one of them had anything that wasn’t good to say about the resource officers. They have been exceptional people and went out of their way to form positive relationships with the kids. We have been lucky to have them. I would be interested in hearing more from the young people who are calling for their removal about their experiences with resource officers.”
Beverly Stoufer wrote, “It is understandable for the students to fear police officers. However, if they were told they were peace officers or resource officers and had the opportunity to meet them I think it would make a big difference! Fear comes from lack of knowledge or experiences. How can the schools find ways to get them to meet? I hope the resource officers are not removed.”
Danielle Gustafson wrote, “If we work on better staffing schools with behavior intervention folks, social workers and therapists. and help our teachers with better resources on current issues/needs (diversity training, restorative justice practices, etc.) we might not need to police on our schools.”
Reauna Stiff wrote, “Black and brown kids do not gain the same sense of safety from resource officers and white kids do. No one is safe until everyone feels safe.”
“Police officers do not belong in schools. Period,” Angela Kunkel wrote. “For the adults arguing that police make school safer I am curious how many of you went to school with officers in them. If you had, you would know there is no community building. Police departments throw around this slogan about the importance of cops getting to know students but I can guarantee the officers couldn’t name more than five kids. It’s all a lie.”