Yesterday, members of the Madison Metropolitan School Board argued over a proposal that would have allocated $35,000 to pay police officers for security during extracurricular events, such as sporting events and graduation.
The school district is required to pay for security at the Kohl Center, which the district uses for its yearly graduation ceremony.
Without those security officers, the graduation ceremony could be cancelled. According to school board president Gloria Reyes, who voted in favor of the measure, they cannot use school security guards.
“They think it’s important to keep our students safe, and I also think that if we are going to…elevate [our security officers’] positions, [then] the board needs to invest [in] and prepare our security officers, and increase their salary. We cannot expect our security officers to be placed in positions with very little training to manage critical situations. I think that we need to look at increasing their pay, and this board has not done that,” Reyes says.
Reyes joined Savion Castro, Cris Carusi ,and Kate Toews in voting for the measure. Reyes says that the security guards in MMSD are the most diverse group of staff in the district.
That could help alleviate fears about an increased police presence at student events.
Fewer than half of all students in the Madison metropolitan school district are minority students. But according to School Board Member Ali Muldrow, students of color are arrested at much higher rates than white students.
A study from nonprofit advocacy group Kids Forward found that in 2016, one in five black kids between the ages of 10 and 17 were arrested, compared to one in forty white kids. Muldrow says she wanted to know if there was a better alternative to the proposal.
“I think that’s the question we were trying to get answered last night,” Muldrow says.
“I think we were saying if there’s a better way to do this, a more effective way to do this, or a more financially sound way to do this, we should look into that.”
Muldrow says she felt the board meeting was conducted in a dismissive way, and left many concerns unaddressed. Ultimately, she joined Nicki Vander Meulen, and Ananda Mirilli in voting against the measure, which passed on a 4-3 vote.
Members of Freedom Inc., a Madison organization that advocates for low-income minority residents, protested the vote at the meeting.
School board president Gloria Reyes maintains that the measure could actually reduce arrests.
“I think we have to have some common sense around this,” Reyes says.
“Police will be called to an incident, and if we don’t have a presence to deescalate a situation, officers are going to be called. That’s the reality if there’s a major incident.”
Reyes also says that school security guards lack the training necessary to serve as security guards at these larger events. Money for that training likely won’t be available until the new budget is approved in June.
But Muldrow believes that security guards are better-equipped to deal with kids, as they are more focused on building relationships with the student body.
“I was a security guard at East High School in 2011 and after a student was sexually assault. The response of the District at that time was to lock the stairwell at East High School where the student had been sexually assaulted, as if restricting a specific area of the school and spending a ton of money on locking it and placing an alarm on it would end sexual violence,” Muldrow says.
“I think we often treat safety as if it’s something symbolic rather than something we should pursue and accomplish.”
Madison Metropolitan School District students are scheduled to graduate on June 5th.