There is often no reasonable way to account for some of the bills that are introduced every legislative session in Salem, and a proposed law to end police contracts with schools — in effect ending school resource officer programs — seems to exceed the usual wrongheaded nature of state democracy.
Last week, the Pendleton School Board voted unanimously to send a letter to the Legislature supporting the school resource officer program and we couldn’t agree more.
The board made its decision after a presentation by Pendleton Police Chief Chuck Byram and officer Lance Zaugg, the police liaison officer assigned to the school district.
The cynical minded of the body politic might view the presentation as the police department working hard to keep a contract, but let’s be honest — school resource officers work and play an important role. A role that, relatively speaking, doesn’t cost much and its impacts far outweigh its potential bearing on fiscal mechanisms.
The bill can trace as least some of its roots to the protests last summer regarding the death of George Floyd. The Portland Public Schools announced last year that it was pulling police offices form its high schools.
One major criticism of the school resource officer program is it impacts student of color disproportionately and leads to higher arrests and eventual incarceration. There may be some validity in that claim but it isn’t, as far as we can tell, a nationwide problem that impacts every single school district in every state and county.
That’s because every county and state and school district is different. Each school district faces a variety of diverse challenges and develops its own unique answer to those problems. Contemplating ending a school resource officer program in a major urban area may be the right answer. But that answer is not necessarily the right one for another district situation hundreds of miles away in a rural area.
Often politicians like to develop one-size-fits-all mandates and fail to consider unintended consequences. Those unintended consequences tend to reappear down the road and develop into major problems no one can solve.
Most important on such a serious issue is the idea of local control of education. Perhaps the Portland School District pondered very good reasons to end their school resource officer program. Perhaps their idea to end the program is the right one. For Portland.
The school resource officer program at the Pendleton School District is a good one and needs to continue.