William Spitzer: Use data, not emotion, on SRO decision

William Spitzer: Use data, not emotion, on SRO decision

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Do we really follow the data or do we choose what data to follow?

We certainly are living in very challenging times and we rely on what we are being told.

The experts are telling us about data that is followed by our politicians proclaiming we must stick to it. Is data just a talking point or is it something we need to respect?

Let’s look at the current trend with local school boards. First the Minneapolis School Board announces shortly after the horrible death of George Floyd that they will be “ending its relationship with the Minneapolis Police Department.”

Was that based on emotion, current tensions or was it based on the data? If so, what data?

Here is some data on this topic that is gathered every three years — most recently in 2019 as part of the Minnesota Student Survey.

So, what do the students say about having a School Resource Officer in the school? Statewide 94.9% of the 8th grade, 94.6% of the 9th grade and 93.8% of the 11 grade students agreed it was a good idea to have an SRO at school.

Let’s drill down further in the data, what about the Minneapolis school district? A total of 89.9% of the 9th grade and 82.9% of the 11 grade students agreed it was a good idea to have an SRO at school.

What about Winona? Unfortunately, Winona School District 2019 data was not complete (9th and 11th grade data was omitted from the state website) but 96% of the 8th grade students agreed it was a good idea to have an SRO at school and 78% agreed that they felt comfortable going to the SRO with problems or asking for help.

As far as those 8th grade students feeling safe at school, 84% felt safe at school. The 2016 (Winona) data was complete, showing 87.9% of the 8th grade, 90.7% of the 9th grade and 83.8% of the 11 grade students agreed it was a good idea to have an SRO at school.

So, if the students think it’s a good idea to have an officer in the school, why is the school board removing them?

If our leaders only made decisions based on who was the loudest or protested in our chambers, they would not be a true representative of the entire community. We can speculate all day long, but at face value it appears it is based on current affairs, which without a doubt, the George Floyd death was one of the toughest videos I have had to watch in my life.

However, maybe the school board is making its decision on other data. I say, show me the data.

Data is a critical piece to any decision and important that we respect the data. We are talking hard data here, not to be confused with projections.

We certainly are living in difficult times and need to review how our schools, police and communities can transform to be more inclusive while rebuilding trust in our justice system.

On the surface this looks like a police problem, but I assure you the data will show you we are only looking at the end result of a series of system failures.

We all need to believe in the human spirit and our will to succeed. I’m not sure if I buy into what some politicians are calling “our last chance.”

That sounds more like a political buzz line than a call to action. How about we remember the lessons we learned (but maybe forgot) in our history and grow from our mistakes.

Hope is a powerful force and we need to use that as our stepping stone for better communities, schools and police departments.

We must hold our leaders to a much higher standard and not allow them to continue to blame the other side or make excuses.

William Spitzer resides in St. Charles.

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