Out with the old – The removal of SROs in DMPS

Kylea M. Tackett, Multi-Media Editor

Cops do not belong in a learning environment,”

— Lyric Sellers

An SRO is a Student Resource Officer. These officers have been a fixture in Des Moines Public Schools for 10 years. But what happens when students feel that these officers are doing more harm than good? It was brought to the attention of the schoolboard that DMPS contract with DMPD contributed to the school to prison pipeline. Meaning, once a student has a run-in with law enforcement, they are more likely to be involved with the law again in the future. Many DMPS students, including senior, Endi MontalvoMartinez and junior, Lyric Sellers, saw a problem with this and fought for SROs to be removed from the district and replaced with other resources that help students deal with mental health, trauma, de-escalation, etc. 

Let’s start at the beginning, the work of removing SRO’s from DMPS has not been a short battle. This process took nearly a year to complete, and it was worth every second.  Sellers mentioned that the work began at the beginning of quarantine, picked up over the summer, and hasn’t stopped since. 

We’ve been very intentional about our process. We wanted to make sure we were constantly liberating the voices of our students and especially our marginalized students. Every move we made had intention behind it,” Sellers said. 

This process began because many students, including Sellers and Montalvo-Martinez recognized that having law enforcement in schools was not a good idea. They were able to recognize that a healthy learning environment does not need police present. 

“Cops do not belong in a learning environment. It is actually concerning to think that there are many people who cannot envision a productive learning environment without cops being involved,” Sellers said. 

A big factor in this decision was the amount of money being put towards SRO’s every year that could be put to better use. According to Montalvo-Martinez, the city and DMPS each paid $725,000 a year. Together, that’s around 1.5 million dollars going towards SRO’s. So where does this money go now? 

“This money will be reinvested into mental health services and support staff like restorative justice facilitators and help with training on trauma informed de-escalation,” Montalvo-Martinez said. 

It has been clear to many students, adults, and administrators that SROs seem to target students of color in certain situations. 

“It’s hard not to come to the conclusion that SROs in schools marginalize students. The data has been very clear regarding that. SROs also don’t make schools safer,” Director of school climate for DMPS Jake Troja said. 

Many hope that this will be a way to create supportive communities inside of our schools, without the police department involved. This could create a much stronger support system. 

“We are trying to build communities, build individual school communities that support each student to feel safe and be safer on campus,” Troja said. 

Depending on if you are an adult or a student, you may have a different idea on what this means for the future of DMPS. Either way, there is no denying that this will have a positive impact. 

“There are so many people who have opened their minds and hearts to come around to reimagining safety. This is a big, radical change,” Sellers said.