A day after thousands of Madison-area high schoolers walked out of class and demanded gun reform on the steps of the Capitol, Madison Mayor Paul Soglin held a press conference Thursday to advocate for the Chiefs of Police Association’s proposals for improving school safety.
Soglin emphasized CPA’s recommendation for an increased number of law enforcement personnel in schools — referred to as Educational Resource Officers — to improve safety. Soglin said local police departments should work closely with school boards to ensure policies do not increase arrest rates of students.
“I want to ask the governor and the legislature to take into consideration the recommendations of our police chiefs and to take into consideration that they are going to have to do more than simply place armed guards in our public schools,” Soglin said.
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The Madison Police Department currently has a $367,000 contract with the Madison Metropolitan School District, but some groups, like Families for Justice, have challenged the idea of having police officers patrolling schools, saying it criminalizes normal juvenile behavior, disproportionately affects minorities and is a wasteful use of funds.
The CPA also recommended bettering school security with:
- More metal detectors, security cameras and alarm systems
- Increasing funds for mental health services and anti-bullying programs
- Providing funds for the Department of Justice to help schools develop school safety plans
- Reforming gun laws to include reinstating a longer wait period and universal background checks for gun purchases
Though Soglin said he would “go further” than what CPA recommended, he said he was disappointed Walker incorporated “virtually nothing” from the CPA’s proposals into his $100 million School Safety Plan released Thursday.
In addition to a $100 million grant which would be available for schools to make security improvements and train school resource officers, Walker’s plan would also establish the Office of School Safety within the Wisconsin DOJ. According to a statement from Walker, this office would coordinate efforts between law enforcement and school districts.
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The plan also mandates reporting of any threats of violence at school and requires parental notification of bullying.
In the same statement, Attorney General Brad Schimel praised Walker’s plan and said its coordination with the DOJ will allow the department to be “a cornerstone of school safety planning and training” in Wisconsin.
Other Wisconsin politicians, however, criticized Walker’s plan.
Soglin dinged the plan for its lack of CPA input and for omitting new restriction on gun access, saying a focus on increasing safety without dealing with guns — “the real issue” — is not enough.
“It is not a substitute for dealing with the availability of firearms that are killing too many of our children, whether its in a mass shooting activity or it’s what we see everyday where young adults are shot down in our cities throughout the country,” Soglin said.
In a statement Thursday, Sen. Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, said the plan ignores student concerns about gun safety.
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As part of the walk-out on Wednesday, students drafted a letter for Walker detailing five demands including:
- Universal background checks
- Banning bump stocks
- Limiting magazine capacity
- Raising the minimum age to purchase an assault rifle.
Walker’s current plan does none of those things, Shilling said.
“Failing to address the most pressing gun safety issues facing our students, families and communities will only lead to more tragedies,” Shilling said.
Many of the Democratic Party gubernatorial candidates who seek to take the governorship from Walker this year also expressed their opposition to Walker’s plan, including Education Superintendent Tony Evers, who said Walker’s plan is a “tone-deaf, desperate election-year stunt” which ignores the pleas from students who want gun reform and increased mental health services.