CLIFTON — In a nation torn apart by school shootings, the question remains: Is what’s being done to combat the violence effective?
On Nov. 3, a local parent shared an alarming post from an anonymous user on social media threatening the Morenci Unified School District.
“I’m someone that lives in Arizona and hates Morenci. Do you know we’re that is? I would stay home tomorrow if I were you. And let everyone in Morenci know not to come to school tomorrow, they may get shot,” the message read.
Law enforcement and school officials worked swiftly to apprehend the suspect and found the threat to ultimately be noncredible, but many parents were shaken by these incidents that are occurring around the country.
Thus far in 2019, there have been at least 32 documented school shootings in the United States. In a release from the Arizona Governor’s Office on Nov. 14, The Arizona Peace Officers Standards and Training Board announced it would be hosting an advanced training course for school resource officers.
“Arizona is committed to providing students a safe environment to learn and putting them on a path to a bright and fulfilling future,” POST stated.
The next day, 16-year-old Nathaniel Berhow entered his Santa Clarita, Calif., high school with a handgun and shot five students, killing two, before turning the gun on himself. Reportedly, the school district had a resource officer in place at the campus.
“It remains unclear how effective SROs are in preventing the types of school tragedies that have rocked the country for 20 years and that are frequently used as a major justification for SROs’ deployment,” a study written by Strategies for Youth (SRY) read. “However, studies do now provide compelling evidence that their presence increases the odds that students will be arrested for minor offenses and that children of color and those with disabilities will be treated most harshly.”
That’s a lot of downsides for an effort that has cost the federal government nearly $1 billion to install officers in 71 percent of high schools, middle schools and elementary schools.
The additional training offered by AZPOST itself was prompted by a tweet issued by state Rep. Alma Hernandez, who wrote, “I was brutally attacked as a 14-year-old girl and now suffer from severe spinal damage on my HS campus by the SRO who was there to ‘keep me safe.’ ” In that tweet, she called for Governor Doug Ducey to increase the available counseling available to schoolchildren, not police presence in schools.
“These courses will make a big difference to improve safety in our schools — and Representative Alma Hernandez deserves a lot of credit,” Ducey said in his response to the advanced training courses. “Ensuring school resource officers have the training they need will help keep Arizona’s students safe and on the track to success. My sincere appreciation and thanks goes to Representative Hernandez for sharing her story and her commitment to keep Arizona students safe.”
“I am thrilled to see our idea to better protect students on campus become a reality,” Hernandez said. “No student should ever have to experience what I experienced at school — and with this training, we can help ensure no student does.”