A Phoenix school board voted unanimously to bring police officers back to the district due to a disturbing rise in student violence.
The Phoenix Union High School District (PXU) made the decision to rehire school resource officers (SROs) on Jun. 1, despite having ended its contract with the Phoenix Police Department in 2020.
However, it won’t hire more than six, meaning some schools in the district won’t have an SRO.
Renee Dominguez, a district parent who is also on the safety committee, told local media she’s taking her daughter out of school since the board didn’t go far enough to support student safety.
“I want school resource officers,” she told ABC15. “My main concern is my child and I do not feel she’s safe on campus.”
School violence is running rampant across the nation, concerning parents, students, and school officials alike.
In May, a 15-year-old Phoenix student was arrested for bringing an AR-15 and ammunition to school. The student will reportedly face felony charges.
A 2022 survey reported 10% of students are threatened with a gun, knife, or other weapon at school – nearly twice the rate from four years before, in 2018.
As a result, Arizona’s Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne is prioritizing $80 million in grants for schools to hire SROs, counselors and social workers as part of a state safety program.
“I’m guarding against the ultimate catastrophe by trying to make sure that every school has a school resource office that can protect the students and protect the staff,” Horne said on local radio.
The grants also stipulate that schools wishing to use the grant for counselors or social workers must already have an SRO.
Data from 2016 reports that only 22% of schools in the U.S. have a full-time SRO, while 68% of high schools, 59% of middle schools and 30% of elementary schools receive at least one weekly visit from an SRO.
Despite the rise in violence, some anti-policing progressives oppose the school security measures.
“I don’t think people realize what jeopardy they’re putting students in,” Shalae Flores said of PXU’s decision. Flores is a part of Poder in Action, a local organization whose goal is to “disrupt and dismantle systems of oppression.”
“Not just by police presence, but this culture of policing presence,” Flores continued. “It’s not preventative in any way, it’s completely reactionary.”
But Horne refuted the argument that SROs were counterproductive and that violence could be prevented with more mental health care.
“I think that’s completely irrational,” said Horne. “If a maniac invades your school with a gun determined to kill people, what’s the counselor going to do?”