MPS adds student resource officer

Munising Public Schools and the City of Munising have approved a new student resource officer for the district. Also known as SROs, the program will put a City of Munising police officer directly into the Middle/High school and Mather Elementary.

“Time is of the essence in a catastrophe. Not just the minutes, but the seconds matter,” Munising Public Schools Superintendent Mike Travis said. “Now we will have someone who will get to know the students and the staff and build the relationships. A lot of positive things can come from this.”

SROs have been common in schools for decades. Originally called school liaison officers, the program puts a fully-uniformed officer in the schools. The officer would look like any MPD officer you would see on patrol. The officer will also go through additional training to serve as a law enforcement officer specifically in a school setting.

“The SRO will have an office upstairs and be very visible for students and staff. They can help with things like special education, compulsory attendance concerns and even help with pickup and dropoff of students at Mather Elementary,” Travis said.

As problems with school safety and mass casualty events continue in the United States, SROs can be controversial in some areas. Some protests at school board meetings downstate say that SROs add to the militarization of schools, while parents in northern Wisconsin were concerned about pro-police propaganda being used to deter children from exercising constitutional rights when interacting with law enforcement.

Travis said that he has not received any complaints or questions regarding the program, but is welcome to any concerns from the community. The superintendent will be able to provide first-hand knowledge of SROs, as he worked with them at previous districts before joining the Munising administration.

“It’s all about picking the right person. When you hire a teacher, you have to find the ones that fit the team,” Travis said. “They need to have good communication skills and be approachable, because the purpose is to create that relationship and become a resource for the district.”

Approval required votes by both the Munising School Board and the Munising City Commission, both of which agreed to the program at regular meetings in January. The SRO will remain a city employee and not of the school district; instead Munising Public Schools will be contracting the services provided by the MPD for the officer.

Grant funding will cover the over $100,000 for the program the next three years, but the grants come from various programs requiring either the school, the city police or the city government itself to file the grant. Other funding sources are also being solidified between the county’s other four public and private school districts and the Alger County Sheriff’s Office to provide SROs at those schools.