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How do Duluth student representatives feel about police in their schools?

The News Tribune asked student representatives what they think about school resource officers — the four Duluth police officers stationed in the public school district.

Duluth Denfeld senior Sariyah Crawford, 17, talks about her feelings on school resource officers
Senior Sariyah Crawford, 17, talks about her feelings on school resource officers during an interview at Denfeld High School on Thursday.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram
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DULUTH — A new one-year contract between Duluth Public Schools and the Duluth Police Department outlines where and when a quartet of officers are stationed at the district’s four secondary schools, and, more notably, includes several provisions put forth by district leaders last spring.

The new agreement governing school resource officers calls for regular reviews of citation data and the program itself, among several other measures.

The program in Duluth has drawn scrutiny over the past few years. Proponents argue that school resource officers help keep students safe and can be mentors or even ad hoc counselors. Opponents note that the students cited by school police are disproportionately Black or American Indian, and worry that the program is part of a “pipeline” that shunts students from classrooms to cell blocks.

But what might students themselves think?

The News Tribune interviewed Sariyah Crawford and Ailee Naus, students who represent Denfeld High School and East High School, respectively, at School Board meetings each month. Below is what each had to say about the district’s school resource officer program. Their answers have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Q: Do you feel your school should have school resource officers? Why or why not?

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Sariyah Crawford: I think it's important to have people in this school that'll help with certain situations. Like, if there ever comes a time where somebody comes to harm students within the school, I do believe SROs really help with stuff like that. But when it comes to things like fighting and misbehaving and other things that require disciplinary action, I don't believe SROs should be one of the people in the school that have to deal with that situation.

You have a bunch of different people in our school, and, because of that, each person requires something different when they’re dealing with certain situations. Because our school is so diverse, each situation doesn’t call for an SRO.

Instead of having SROs come in, punish people for acting out, there should be other people like (Denfeld integration specialist) Aaron Gelineau or Saraiya (Piantek, the community school coordinator at Denfeld) that help these people.

Sariyah Crawford, a senior at Duluth Denfeld High School, smiles while she talks about school resource officers during an interview
Sariyah Crawford, a senior at Duluth Denfeld High School, talks about school resource officers during an interview Thursday.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

Ailee Naus: I think that school resource officers have their pros and cons. For the time being, I think that they are a good resource and although I think there could be better options with similar purposes, until then, they provide good support. It's really important to consider minority groups and remember that majority shouldn't always rule in situations like this so I'm glad the contract will now be reviewed yearly and I think that other options should still be considered.

I think that the money put towards having resource officers in our buildings could be put to other uses like hiring more counselors so that the student to counselor ratio is smaller. That way they can receive more personal help. Or towards other resources that cater more specifically to trauma and mental health needs of high school students.

Ailee Naus
Ailee Nauss, who represents East High School students at Duluth Public Schools' monthly School Board meetings.
Contributed / Ailee Naus

How do you feel about the school resource officer program in general?

Crawford: Due to the violence that has been in schools for a long time, there should be SROs because the fear is there. The fear of somebody coming into the school and harming students is there; it's prevalent. There have been so many school shootings and people being hurt in school. So I understand why people feel safer with SROs in the building.

At the same time, there are things that SROs don't need to handle. When it comes to disciplinary actions, that's something the school can deal with, instead of putting these students in handcuffs.

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Naus: I think that the program could use some improvement, but that the new contract will hopefully provide that if it is successful.

Duluth Denfeld senior Sariyah Crawford discusses her feelings on school resource officers during an interview at Denfeld High School
Duluth Denfeld senior Sariyah Crawford discusses her feelings on school resource officers Thursday.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

As far as improvements to the current program, it's hard to say with the contract being so new right now, but there can always be further improvement and review as far as training and involvement goes.
What about the officer assigned to your school?

Crawford: I have talked to him (officer Ed Franckowiak, who is new to the post this school year) a few times, and I do like him. He is a good guy, and I can see him trying to make connections with students.

Ailee Naus2
Ailee Nauss, who represents East High School students at Duluth Public Schools' monthly School Board meetings.
Contributed / Ailee Naus

Naus: I think officer (Bill) Stauber is a very kind and dependable resource. I was skeptical and unsure how I felt about him, but learning more about him and now knowing all the experience he's had as an SRO and more about him as a person has really helped me to trust him more.

I think people are quick to make assumptions about police officers and people of authority in general for that matter. While I find that to be valid and within reason for a lot of people and a lot of cases, taking the time to get to know the people in our school can really change your perspective.

Joe Bowen is an award-winning reporter at the Duluth News Tribune. He covers schools and education across the Northland.

You can reach him at:
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