Cops out?

Teachers’ unions support removing police protection from schools, despite what their members tell them.

In a stark rebuke to educator preferences, Education Minnesota—the state’s teachers’ union—is standing with other political groups that are working to remove School Resource Officers (SROs) from school grounds. Education Minnesota’s national affiliates (the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers) no longer want officers as school security personnel, and one of its local affiliates is “demand[ing] police-free schools.”

But most educators say they want to keep SROs in schools. A June survey by the EdWeek Research Center revealed that only 23 percent of educators support removing them. Thirty percent say SROs are needed because “too many students are out of control.” Nearly three out of four teachers, principals, and district leaders say the officers are needed for protection against outsiders intent on doing harm to students and staff.

The NEA and the AFT represent thousands of school security personnel, including SROs, yet union leadership has recently stated they have “grave concerns” about officers in schools— starkly different from past sentiments that “SROs are vital to keep classrooms safe.” When President Obama proposed legislation in 2013 that included appropriating $150 million to hire SROs, both the NEA and the AFT supported the bill. Now that past support is being scrubbed off the teachers’ unions’ websites. Are they ashamed of their own long-running role in the placement, funding, and advocacy of SROs?

Critics say that Education Minnesota should stop spending union dues to support groups that are politicizing school safety. Given discipline issues that threaten school safety, students feeling less safe at school, and the rise of school violence, SROs are critical to protecting both students and teachers.