By Charmaine Lindsay
An overwhelming majority of students, staff, principals and teachers supported bringing back school resource officers (SROs).
For those in the community who oppose armed police officers in our schools, I would like to explain my support and the 4-3 vote to reverse the previous board policy that banned officers from schools. I received hundreds, maybe thousands, of emails expressing strong opinions on this issue.
I have been accused of being a racist and supporting the school-to-prison pipeline and principles of white supremacy. I have been asked to resign by those who blame the deaths and shootings of students and staff at and around schools on the previous board’s ban on officers in schools.
I would like to explain my position and why I don’t believe that SROs are the reason our education system leads kids to the socalled school-to-prison pipeline. When my son was in middle school, he played football. Early in September, one of the coaches, who was also an RTD bus driver, asked me if I would support another kid to play football.
He said that the kid rode the bus all day, had dirty clothes and he was pretty sure he wasn’t in school. He wasn’t, and I got him enrolled in middle school, which was very difficult. He didn’t have an address and was sleeping on his aunt’s floor; his mother was a drug addict who refused to come to the school.
I picked him up every day in a van I bought from my brother because at this point, I was taking five kids, all Black, to football practice and games, and they wouldn’t fit in my car. I had to find friends to pay for their fees and equipment so they could play.
One day this kid didn’t come out of school, and nobody had seen him. It took me two weeks to find him at an alternative school. His version of the story was that he had a dirty T-shirt and was being teased and bullied because he didn’t have decent clothes.
He pulled a small pocket knife out of his backpack, didn’t open it, and threatened the three kids who were picking on him. His mom didn’t come to the meeting, and he was told he had to go to another school.
I stopped being able to find him to take him to football because the aunt kicked him and his mom out of the house. Another kid had a pair of Vans with holes in them and kids teased him. I offered to buy him a pair of shoes, but he had a lot of pride, and said “no way.” He stole a pair instead.
I watched with a broken heart both kids go down a path toward prison and a third kid who joined a gang and ended up in a juvenile facility for three years. His story is too long to tell here. I watched as the four kids I sponsored to play football were excessively suspended and often did not have anyone to advocate for their side.
For these kids, curfew tickets, driving offenses, marijuana tickets, shoplifting all lead to a probation system that is insurmountable. Private corporations profit off kids being on probation, but that’s a whole other subject.
Back to my vote to allow the return of SROs, I am personally invested and involved. I am in an interracial marriage, and I have 10 kids of color who are my grandkids, who go to or have gone through Denver Public Schools, including two at East and one at McAuliffe.
For every child that carries a loaded gun to school there is a story that started long before the symptoms of sitting in a classroom with a loaded gun. SROs need to be there because of the symptoms, not the underlying inequities, unfair punishments, and lack of advocacy, resources and mental health services.
Besides being a possible deterrent to violence, SROs can develop trust with students and are often who students turn to when they are facing abuse inside and outside the school environment.
The decisions of whether SROs will be in schools are ultimately up to the individual schools and the superintendent. As a school board member, I do not believe that I have a right to take that choice away, which is why I stand by my vote.
Charmaine Lindsay is the Denver Public Schools’ Board of Education representative for District 5. She was appointed to the board in 2022.