Monday’s Mansfield Town Council meeting was dominated by debate regarding the presence of two armed school resource officers (SROs) at E.O. Smith High School, resulting in a 6-3 vote by the council in favor of an amended agreement between the council and the Board of Education with changes regarding the officers’ training and certification, among others.
The amendment, proposed by Democratic councilman Ronald Schurin, stood opposite a proposal put forth by Democratic councilwoman Terry Berthelot recommending the town council terminate the existing contract and renegotiate in June, after the school year. Both proposals came after lengthy public debate, featuring arguments from citizens on either side of the issue, including several members of the Region 19 school board which had previously voted unanimously in favor of creating the two SRO positions.
Funding for the two SRO positions was approved by all three sending towns in May, when the yearly E.O. Smith budget was agreed upon. Since, however, questions regarding the legality of the positions’ creation have been a topic of hot debate, with multiple councilmembers expressing a desire for there to have been greater collaboration between themselves and the Region 19 school board at the time of the original agreement’s creation.
Republican councilman David Freudmann was among those that voted against Schurin’s amendment.
“We’re not looking for a differently worded agreement, we have issues with the very existence of the agreement,” Freudmann said, later adding, “the problem with the SRO program is that they are police officers, and I believe that’s escalatory.”
Councilwoman Berthelot expressed her own concerns regarding the “school-to-prison” pipeline the presence of armed SROs may exacerbate, citing evidence that Connecticut Latinx students attending schools with SROs present are six times more likely to be arrested than at schools without SROs.
Democratic councilman Ben Shaiken spoke at length about his own positive experience attending E.O. Smith, while imploring the all-white council to approach the issue with sensitivity regarding the perspectives of people of color.
Councilman Schurin’s amendment included language mandating racial sensitivity training for both SROs, Mark Gendron and Hans Danielson.
Nick Smith is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.