School Resource Officers – Keeping Our Students Safe

Steve Bergstrom Father Police Officer
My Father as a Police Officer 40 Years ago.

My father was a police officer when I was young. My grandfather, aside from being a Veteran of the Marine Corps, was also the very first school crossing guard ever in America – true story! Their influence shaped my views of honoring those who serve our nation and our communities. No service was more revered in the Bergstrom home than that of police officers and our military. 

Honoring law enforcement is part of my values, and so is protecting our children. Unfortunately, those aren’t the values of our current school board, which has actively stood in opposition to the continued presence of police officers in school – they have pegged law enforcement as a threat while school violence continues to rise. Tragic experiences in schools across the country have shown us that the removal of School Resource Officers (SROs) would have a disastrous effect on school safety. 

According to data at the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, from 2014-2019 WCPSS has seen over 3,500 acts of violence or crime. Schools in Wake have annually averaged:

  • 59 assaults on school personnel
  • 449 counts of possession of a controlled substance
  • 249 counts of possession of a weapon
  • 26 sexual assaults


It has been proposed by some board members that SROs should be replaced with trained guidance counselors, and they nearly caved to an anti-law enforcement group. In 2020 the Education Justice Alliance and Southern Coalition for Social Justice sent a letter to the WCPSS Board of Education (BOE) demanding “the immediate end of all school policing contracts with local law enforcement agencies and greater investments in alternatives to school policing.” Falling in line, the BOE immediately suspended their contract with SROs and began discussing alternative ways to ensure safe school environments. Because of intense pushback from the community, the board begrudgingly voted to keep SROs.

Ask any teacher or administrator and each one will tell you that school shutdowns have had a significant effect on discipline, chronic truancy, and violence in the classroom. Ask any student, and they will tell you even going in the bathroom isn’t safe, and are dens for drugs, vaping, violence and sexual assault. In a 2019 survey by “Education Week” NC teachers showed overwhelming support for SROs. The survey of 1,150 U.S. teachers cited protection against outsiders and shootings as the main reasons educators support the presence of SROs. Nearly 1 in 3 teachers surveyed also wanted protection against being assaulted by students. An October 2019 High Point University poll found that 84% of North Carolinians believe hiring more school resource officers would be effective in stopping school shootings. A 2019 teacher survey showed 86% of teachers support having SROs in every single school.

We don’t need to just keep SROs in schools, we need to increase them. SROs form relationships with students, who keep them informed of possible violent situations, and they give a sense of security to students facing threats and bullying. The number one job of schools is to keep its students safe at school, and without that no learning can occur – safety translates into academic achievement.

According to a 2019 Raleigh News & Observer story, a school safety committee formed by Governor Roy Cooper after the Parkland school massacre, said that North Carolina needs to be proactive, and provide money to have an armed police officer at every school in the state. As your next school board member, I will ask for mismanaged funds to be re-directed to fund SROs, and will have a law enforcement officer on my community task force advise me on how to continue improving school safety. Former Wake County Sheriff and current candidate Donnie Harrison agrees with that approach, and we have spoken at length about ways to improve the relationship between school officials, students and SROs. I appreciate his support in this effort.

This is National Police Week, where we recognize our communities would look much different without law enforcement, as they stand between citizens and danger. I recently spoke to members of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 41, and was honored to receive their endorsement. I will continue to earn that endorsement and honor my family’s law enforcement roots by making certain politics never trumps our solemn obligation to keep our schools safe.

 

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Steve Bergstrom

Steve Bergstrom

Steve Bergstrom, candidate for Wake County School Board in District 8 is a dedicated husband, father of four, veteran of the Air Force and captain for a major U.S. airline. He brings experience, leadership and will to return schools to parents.

Steve Bergstrom

Steve Bergstrom

Steve Bergstrom, candidate for Wake County School Board in District 8 is a dedicated husband, father of four, veteran of the Air Force and captain for a major U.S. airline. He brings experience, leadership and will to return schools to parents.

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