By Guy Page
The presence of a School Resource Officer deterred Jack Sawyer from carrying out his planned 2018 Valentine’ Day weekend mass shooting at Fair Haven Union High School, the school’s superintendent tells Ericka Redic on the latest episode of the Ericka Redic Show.
Vermont Senate bill 63 would prohibit school districts from hiring SROs, who are armed police officers trained and assigned to work in schools. The presence of SROs leads to unacceptably high arrests – particularly of minorities – and feeds the “school-to-prison pipeline,” say its authors, Sens. Alison Clarkson (D-Windsor), Ruth Hardy (D-Addison), Chris Pearson (D/P Chittenden), and Anthony Pollina (P-Washington).
“The school resource officer in the case of the Jack Sawyer incident was one of the only deterrents in his alleged shooting plot at the Fair Haven Union High School,” Slate Valley Unified School District Supt. Brooke Olsen-Farrell says at the 15 minute, two second mark.
“When a bill incomes forth that potentially could prohibit that individual [SRO] from serving in our school district, it really hits close to home and produces a lot of anxiety for our teachers, our staff and our community. Some of our teachers and staff feel safe coming here knowing there is a school resource officer.”
Redic then adds: “In the young man’s journal, he details the fact that one of the main reasons he hadn’t yet carried out his intention was because of your SRO. He couldnt figure out how to get around that roadblock.”
“Absolutely,” Olsen-Farrell replies. She concedes the possibility that elsewhere in the nation the SRO system may have problems, but adds, “our data tells us a much different story.” Attempts to prohibit an SRO “are really difficult to swallow,” she said.
The fear produced by the Sawyer incident was immediate and remains to this day – especially because Sawyer, sentenced as a youthful offender, turns 22 this year and is scheduled to be set free.
“What is 2021 going to be….what is the unknown?” Olsen-Farrell said. “The prohibition on an SRO could be untenable for some of our staff and students.”
Redic noted an apparent shift in legislative priorities since the aftermath of the Sawyer incident.
“Vermonters were horrified when one of our high schools was nearly the victim of another mass shooting of children. The Vermont Legislature reacted swiftly. Legislation that included controversial firearms restrictions was quickly drafted. Lawmakers and Gov. Phil Scott both said in the aftermath of the Fair Haven scare that nothing was more important than the safety and wellbeing of our children.”
However, another Senate bill would prevent the prohibition of SROs and provide $1 million more in funding. Redic interviews Sen. Josh Terenzini (R-Rutland), the lead sponsor of S76.
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Burlington resident Redic, also an accountant, improv comedian, and 2020 candidate for the Vermont Senate, has trained as a news announcer in Los Angeles. Her husband Ben is a cinemaphotographer and fight choreographer. They are the two-person team behind “Generally Irritable,” a Facebook video series focusing on Burlington and Vermont problems and solutions. See past episodes of the Ericka Redic Show here.
Categories: Ericka Redic Show