by Marc Broklawski
During a July 29, 2020 joint working session between the Stafford County School Board and Stafford County Board of Supervisors, there were some explosive discussions about the School Resource Officer (SRO) Program.
There was never any move to end the SRO program in Stafford County Schools, but that didn’t stop Supervisor Crystal Vanuch (Rock Hill District) from immediately accusing and threatening the Stafford County School Board, “It would be very detrimental to our working relationship should there be any movement to removing the SROs from Stafford County Schools.”
As School Board Member Pam Yeung (Garrisonville) pointed out, there was never any talk about ending the SRO program. Superintendent Scott Kizner added that the MOU was very old and that the School Board was simply looking at clarifying roles and responsibilities and updating them. He also added that “some of our staff was looking at them as a security firm; that’s not the role [of SROs] either.”
Yeung added, “To speak to the elephant in the room, we want to make sure that we are treating minorities as children, as students and not as individuals that they’re just seeing as going through a justice system.”
But that still didn’t satisfy Vanuch. At a time of a global pandemic that has already taken 150,000 lives, and while the School Board is struggling with how to safely educate all of Stafford’s children, School Board members desire a better partner to help fund needs towards that goal.
Instead of working cooperatively and in good faith, Stafford School Board members were confronted with bullying threats and false assumptions. Said Vanuch:
“I would hate to have this great working relationship kickoff and then when I saw it on there and just with the national, you know what a lot of cities and towns are doing across the nation regarding their SROs it was definitely something I thought we should not be doing in Stafford and would definitely impact our working relationship…if the program was removed.”
Then Aquia District Supervisor Cindy Shelton brought up an idea on how to improve relationships with SROs and students. Shelton suggested that SROs should have baseball cards made up of themselves, called hero cards, with their pictures on it.
How would these baseball cards improve relationships with children? Let’s decorate the school-to-prison pipeline with these so called “hero” cards. Is this the best idea they could come up with? Maybe the Supervisors should stop trying to micromanage the School Board.
Vanuch jumped right back in to share why she believes minority children are afraid of the police:
“And a lot of the protests here locally, clearly some of the minority children are afraid of police officers, whether they’ve had a bad interaction or not…just the national news has given them a fear that they should be fearful of law enforcement.”
Yeung fired back that it’s not just from TV.
It was just back in early June when the Stafford County Sheriff’s Office fired tear gas at peaceful protestors who were on the Falmouth bridge demonstrating against the death of George Floyd. Many of these protestors were left with burning eyes and troubled breathing.
It’s not (just) the national news that has given them a fear of law enforcement, it’s their own experience.
Vanuch didn’t stop with those comments, but continued:
“They are absolutely getting a lot of it from the TV and what is happening in other areas and they’re taking that to their hometown and they are painting a broad brush across all law enforcement officers. I do think that at some point the schools will have to address with minority children how to have a positive interaction with a law enforcement officer. My dad was a police officer when I was growing up. When I was 16 and he gave me those keys the first thing he taught me to do was how to act when I got pulled over.”
Thank you for your example of white privilege, Crystal. Speaking of broad brushes, what kind of broad brush is she painting of minority families? By making this claim that schools need to teach minority students about how to talk nicely to police, what assumptions is she making about minority parents? You don’t think that there are minority parents having that talk with their children every day? Even before they’re given any keys?
Minorities aren’t just being pulled over while driving, they’re being killed while living, sleeping in their own beds…walking down the streets to their homes….sitting in their front yards…shopping at Walmart…or playing in the park, as 12-year old Tamir Rice was when he was shot — not even being questioned while playing in the park.
Maybe the Board of Supervisors could use some diversity training.
Vanuch seems to want to rein in the School Board, but not to call into question activities of the Sheriff’s Department. Instead, the Stafford Board of Supervisors decided to divert $25K of COVID-19 money, which could have been provided to the schools to improve health and safety for students and teachers, to purchase “Gas masks for Civil Disturbance Teams that come into contact with large groups of people?”
The military can’t use tear gas against terrorists, so then why are we allowing the Board of Supervisors to approve its use by the Stafford Sheriff’s Department?
School Board Member Dr. Sarah Chase (Falmouth) hit the nail on the head on this topic,
“I’d just submit the problem is probably much larger than that. And so for example, very few white parents ever sit down to have a conversation with their children about race, they don’t talk to their children about it all. And, almost every black parent I know has a conversation with their children starting at a very young age about race and that conversation…many black parents that I know do not want their children to be too comfortable with police officers. Because they’re very concerned, if you are too comfortable with that police officer, you’re not going to be careful and you can end up dead. It’s a very different world view and experience.”
Yeung closed by adding to what Chase said and offering a unique perspective:
“It was deeper than that. I have three boys and I have a daughter and they grew up right here in Stafford County. And I should have no reason to have a conversation with any single one of them about police officers, but I did. I’m one of those parents. My kids don’t fear police officers, but they know how to react. So not every child fears police officers. We have to have that conversation with them. So, it’s deeper, bigger and wider and it’s not just on TV.”
Vanuch and the Board of Supervisors need better training in racial sensitivity. Stafford County citizens deserve better.