With shock and calls to action building around Sonoma County over the in-classroom altercation at Santa Rosa’s Montgomery High School that ended with the stabbing homicide of a 16-year-old boy on Feb. 27, it is time to ask how we want to raise the next generation.
Schools throughout the county are famously underfunded. Even when there is a qualified mental health counselor available, they are often shared between multiple campuses.
Now there is a call to fund so-called “School Resource Officers” (SROs). Armed cops in schools. In Santa Rosa.
SRO deployment is not correlated with a reduction in school crimes. Instead, SROs have been shown to disproportionately detain and arrest Black and brown students, while failing to defend schools against attacks. One may remember videos of the SRO hiding outside during Florida’s Parkland High School shooting of 2018.
Instead of adding guns to schools, let’s think about how to really address the needs of these kids.
Think about the three children involved in the fight. Automatically, one feels sorry for the deceased and disgusted by the killer. Yet the two stabbing victims entered a classroom in session to continue a two-against-one fight with a freshman two years behind them.
Only weeks ago, two students at a Petaluma high school felt compelled to leave their classroom before putting on masks to enter another in-session classroom to continue a fight from earlier.
What had these kids learned about disagreement and conflict resolution?
Ask which institution is better suited to raising a generation confident enough to respect and support one another with kindness, patience and understanding: A well-funded, free to access pre-K–12 school system staffed with well-trained and dedicated educators? Or a policing system that is willing to use pepper spray or worse on children, that is well documented to escalate situations which involve mental health crises?
Which option would help a high school freshman not bring a knife to school just so he will feel safe? Although he survived the fight, his childhood is over.
No SROs in Sonoma County. Speak at city council meetings; tell friends. Let’s do better.
Michael Giotis is a music and arts contributor to the ‘Bohemian’ and ‘Pacific Sun.’