DES MOINES, Iowa – Des Moines Public Schools haven’t had resource officers in its buildings all school year, and now some parents are raising concerns about what is happening now that they’re gone.

The Des Moines School Board got rid of school resource officers in February. Some parents say the decision has led to more fights, and more distractions for students trying to learn.

“The behavior is getting worse, the fights are getting worse,” parent Amber Dawn said. “My fear is that we took out one problem and caused another. We became victim to our own environment, and our own systems.” 

Some maintain the decision to remove SROs was the right one.

“Not only did data from DMPS and the Department of Human Rights highlight that students of color had more interactions with SROs which led to disproportionate arrests than their white peers,” student Lauren Benson said, “but student-lived experiences show how hostile, unhelpful, and problematic SROs are in schools.”

The data shows that calls for police assistance are down, but at the same time students feel less safe.

The district surveyed them and found only half of students have a positive perception of school safety, and that’s even down from last spring.

Tuesday night, the school board learned what administrators have been using in place of SROs, like increasing the number of campus monitors at high schools and training staff on how to de-escalate tense situations.

These changes happened quickly and Superintendent Thomas Ahart acknowledges he could have done more to prepare students to be back together in-person.

“One thing that I would do differently if I were starting the year over again would be to spend more time on setting conditions at the beginning of the year,” Ahart said, “given that we have so many students who are entering this year with very little time with their peers and in school over the last two years.” 

The board didn’t vote on anything at Tuesday’s meeting. Instead, the first step is for them to decide when they’ll revisit this topic.