Providence students urge state to replace school resource officers with more mental health professionals


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ The rain didn’t stop Providence students and advocates from marching through the city’s streets Thursday afternoon as part of a two-day walk-out.

Those participating in the demonstration are urging the state to take resource officers out of schools and replace them with counselors and mental health professionals.

“We don’t need cops in our schools. We don’t need guns in our schools,” one advocate said. “We need actual safety that isn’t rooted in our oppression.”

But Gov. Dan McKee doesn’t fully support that idea.

“My position has been very strong to keep school resource officers in the schools,” he said.

The governor said he is working with Mayor Jorge Elorza, law enforcement, and the R.I. Department of Education to address their concerns.

“There’s always a need to improve and reset community relationships, so we’re in the process of doing that and if we need to redefine that in some way that creates a better connection with our students, with our families, we’ll do that,” McKee added.

But advocates believe school resource officers play a major role in the school-to-prison pipeline and argue there are several negative impacts to having them around.

“We need to be clear that we don’t want these people, who are funding to become pseudo cops,” Classical High School sophomore B Jewett said. “When we say we want mental health support on police calls, it doesn’t mean we want a cop who had 30 hours of psychiatry training. We want an actual mental health professional.”

There are currently eight school resource officers throughout Providence Public Schools. McKee said now is the time to bring law enforcement and the community together, not drive them apart.

The two-day walk-out is scheduled to continue Friday afternoon.

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