Republicans pass bill mandating police officers in schools with high crime
MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- If a school district makes frequent calls to police, they would have to hire a school resource officer under a Republican bill passed by the Assembly.
Schools would only be required to employ a police officer if there are a high number of incidents, 100 or more in one semester, and at least 25 of those result in arrests, under the proposal Assembly Republicans approved Tuesday.
The crimes that would apply include homicide, sexual assault, burglary, robbery, theft, battery, possession of drugs or alcohol, obtaining a firearm and disorderly conduct.
Republicans say the bill would help keep schools safe, referencing an uptick of violent incidents in schools, including several fights in the Wauwatosa high school, some that prompted lockdowns.
School resources officers, or SROs, were removed from the state's two largest school districts, Milwaukee and Madison, in wake of the death of George Floyd which triggered racial injustice protests during 2020.
It's become a contentious debate, with proponents arguing a police presence in schools can disproportionately impact students with disabilities and Black and brown students.
The Milwaukee School District, the ACLU of Wisconsin, and Disability Rights Wisconsin have all registered against the bill.
The bill proposes using federal COVID-19 relief aid to reimburse schools if they hire an SRO, but these funds can only be used for limited purposes and therefore cannot be used to pay for officers, according to a fiscal memo by the Department of Administration.
Assembly Republican leaders said they have not seen the memo.
Another bill would mandate public and private high schools to track how often students commit crimes on school property. Schools would then have to report these statistics to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI).
Rep. Cindi Duchow (R-Town of Delafield), who authored the bill, said reporting these incidents to DPI will help "shine a light" on what's going on in school districts.
"This is a tool that parents deserve, community members deserve, so they can find out to see how safe their kids are at school," Duchow said.
The proposals drew backlash from Democrats who say the bills put an unnecessary burden on schools and argue they fail to provide additional support services for students.
"There are plenty of other places that are taking a comprehensive look at school safety, not the two bills we have here today, which is nothing but school security theater," said Rep. Deb Andraca (D-Whitefish Bay).
Rep. Dave Considine (D-Baraboo) said reporting these incidents won't make schools any safer, noting parents already get notified when incidents occur.
"If those things happen in school, I don't know of a school district that's not going to expel or suspend those students," Considine said. "That data is already there, it's there for the parents to ask. We don't need this law."