School resource officers work to create a safe environment in KPS schools

Officer Lockett, an SRO at Loy Norrix, talking to students in 2018.

Credit: Kailynne Besser

Officer Lockett, an SRO at Loy Norrix, talking to students in 2018.

Princess-J'Maria Mboup, Knights Speak Team

“Our SROs work very well to keep our students safe,” said Principal Christopher Aguinaga about the school resource officers that serve at Loy Norrix.

During the summer, amidst the murder of George Floyd and other unarmed black men by white police officers, the tremendous power of anger, sadness and hurt led to the burning of buildings, tearing down of statues and relentless debate about the level of involvement the police should have in citizen’s lives.

As a result, some Kalamazoo citizens proposed the removal of SROs from the high schools. One of these organizations in the Kalamazoo community was the Promise Advocacy for Children and Community Transformation (PACCT). PACCT sent out a petition in June that called for SRO removal, which gathered over 3 thousand signatures. Community members have also attended numerous KPS school board meetings to express their concerns and their praises pertaining to school resource officers.

SROs are not the same as the security guards, who also work in many school buildings to ensure the safety of students at school. Aguinaga described the duties of an SRO as building relationships with students, getting training from the police department, enforcing the law intervention and acting as first responders to any medical emergencies.

“A security guard does not have the right to enforce the law,” said Aguinaga.

Aguinaga clarified that a security guard cannot command anyone to do anything by law. Security guards also do not have medical training as a first responder.

Security guards are tier-1. Tier-1 means that security guards handle all non-emergency incidents. They are the first go-to people for issues in Loy Norrix. They have a spectrum of duties that they perform for the school that are not necessarily associated with security. SROs are only used in situations that warrant law enforcement.

KPS responded to this request to remove SROs efforts by sending out a survey to students that asked if they found value in having SROs in schools. A total of 494 students participated in the survey, meaning there was a 33% response rate among Loy Norrix students. Of those responses, 53.2% of Loy Norrix students who responded had no preference, 33.0% found value in having SROs, and 13.8% found no value in having SROs in school.


A different survey created by TRUE, a student group, was sent out following the KPS survey and closed on Jan. 31, 2021. This survey was sent out by Teens Responsible for Upholding Equity (TRUE). TRUE is a youth-led group that is making efforts to be an active part of the school board in order to have official influence over decisions made by the board. Their mission is to eliminate racism in KPS, hold the school board accountable to decisions that they make and increase transparency with KPS students.

From the uproar during the summer, spiraled the question of police involvement in schools. These police are called SROs, otherwise known as school resource officers. They are defined as, “sworn in law enforcement officers responsible for safety and crime prevention in schools,” by the U.S. Department of Justice.

On Thursday, December 3rd, 2020, the school board voted to keep SROs in schools after pushback from students towards the end of the summer and support from other students and staff.

Aguinaga stated that he’s only had a couple general student complaints. He explained that the SROs restrain themselves incredibly when dealing with students.

Aguinaga went on to explain that he believes that the removal of SROs will not aid the movement to combat racism in education.

“I would argue that what they’re trying to resolve, I don’t think that eliminating the SRO is what’s going to solve that,” Aguinaga said.

Some students feel that the removal of SROs would be a big step in combating racism.

“Police create hostile environments and contribute to further escalation, rather than deescalation,” said Lo.

According to KPS records, there have been four physical arrests at Loy Norrix from 2018-2019 and one arrest at Kalamazoo Central.

Aguinaga could not recall any negative interaction that he’s seen or experienced with the SROs at Loy Norrix. Lo cannot recall any positive or negative interaction with SROs.

“I’ve seen SROs simply sit there on their phones or walk around, but I haven’t seen them have a direct impact on anything in the schools,” said Lo.

Even with the pushback concerning police in schools, staff and students alike share concerns about not having SROs in Loy Norrix.

“Police have training in many different scenarios, which could be very helpful if something unprecedented were to happen,” said Lo.

According to the Safety and Crisis Management Policy for KPS, “the District will collaborate with city, county, state and federal resources, agencies and organizations in conversations of current safety and crises management methods and/or procedures.” This includes collaboration with KDPS, Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety, at Loy Norrix in the form of SROs.

There has been lots of confusion about what an SRO actually is and why they are suddenly a topic of discussion in the Kalamazoo community. Many students confuse them for security guards or had never heard of the term until recently. This is the first time hearing the term for some staff and community members as well.

With more information circulating about school resource officers, their duties and their effectiveness, the KPS community, especially the youth, will be able to come to informed conclusions on their stance on SROs and the district will have a more accurate representation of what the KPS community wants.