OLYMPIA, Wash. — Olympia School District leaders are showing parents that they hear their cries for school resource officers. On Monday night, the superintendent and board president announced their intention to bring back these types of community police officers to campuses.
The meeting was called after yet another gun, a BB gun, was found on campus Monday morning. It's the second lockdown on campus in just four days of the new school year.
"There's overwhelming support for student resource officers to be back on campus," said Capital High School father Matt Dorcy.
So, what is a school resource officer, or SRO as they're often called? The state of Washington defines them as police officers at K-12 schools who conduct community-oriented policing and build positive relationships with students. They have the sworn authority to make arrests and respond to crimes on or around campuses.
One Thurston County parent said for his family, the second lockdown was the last straw.
"I knew, inside, it was time to turn around, go to the school, pull my daughter out and make different decisions as far as where we as a family feel safe enrolling her in school," said Dorcy.
OSD Superintendent Patrick Murphy called an impromptu safety meeting with parents Monday night to address the security and safety concerns.
"While conducting their morning supervision, a Capital High School administrator became aware of suspicious behavior amongst a group of students. The staff member followed the students into a bathroom, at which point a BB gun was found. Police were immediately notified and responded to the school and took appropriate enforcement action. The school was placed in a modified lock-out at 9:03 in the morning," said Murphy. "There were no reports that the weapon was displayed, nor were any students or staff threatened with it. We want to express our deepest gratitude to the Olympia Police Department."
Families were already on edge after what happened Wednesday during first period on the first day of school.
"A student had brought a loaded gun to the school and needed to be pursued on foot by police to potentially even tased," said Dorcy.
Murphy addressed Wednesday's incident as well.
"OPD responded at approximately 9:30 in the morning, on that first day while classes were in session, and took a CHS student into custody for being in possession of a gun on school grounds," said Murphy. "The weapon was found concealed on the student. There were no reports that the weapon was ever displayed, nor were any students or staff threatened with the weapon, and police left the school at approximately 10 a.m."
Another parent, a mother named Alesha Perkins who runs a popular Facebook group for Olympia School District parents, said, “We've had multiple calls from the community to please bring our SROs back.”
She pointed out that the school board had ended its partnership with SROs in June of 2020.
"There was a lot of upheaval, regarding policing at that time, it was around the George Floyd death,” said Perkins.
Now, however, district leaders are pacifying concerned parents by asking board members to approve a policy Thursday that will, in Board President Darcy Huffman's words, "allow Superintendent Murphy to work with city officials, and to expedite the recent resumption of school resource officer program in our schools."
Still, for Dorcy, he feels that action comes a little too late. His daughter is applying to other schools.
"I wouldn't go back even if there were SROs put at that campus," said Dorcy.
But it’s not just SROs that parents have been calling for. It’s also metal detectors and hardened security at entryways, according to Perkins.
This was not something leaders touched on, however, at Monday's impromptu safety meeting on Zoom.
"I know we don't want our schools to feel like prisons. But we also don't want our parents to feel like they're in a prison of anxiety at home, just waiting for the next alert to come out that the school is on lockdown," said Dorcy.
Huffman said Murphy is now working with the Olympia Police Department to have a police presence on campus in the days and weeks ahead as they finalize a new partnership for SROs with the city.
Murphy concluded the meeting by sending out a survey to collect questions and comments from parents.
The public board meeting is on Thursday, Sept. 14, at 6:30 p.m.