Police officers in Vermont schools: We found the backstory

Police officers in some Vermont schools have been a constant since the late 1990s through “school resource officer” programs. 

Now, students of color in several of these school districts are speaking out against the program and questioning its effectiveness. This has prompted districts and their elected boards to begin looking at the program more closely to determine whether armed police officers should continue having a presence in schools. 

Burlington Police Cpl. Kim Burbo, then-School Resource Officer at Edmunds Elementary School, shows sixth-grader Trang Vu, 12, how to use a laser speed gun to see if motorists on Main Street in Burlington are speeding as part of Vu's math and science curriculum in 2002.

When school resource officer programs started emerging in Vermont, assigning police officers to schools was seen as a proactive way to ensure the school community’s safety, prevent student delinquency and enhance community policing. Instead, some current and former students say the programs further perpetuated systemic racism and traumatized children who had fled with their families to Vermont to seek refuge from violence in their home countries. 

Student and alumni groups, such as Winooski Students for Anti-Racism, have asked that the officers be replaced by counselors who specialize in trauma and racial justice. 

Subscribers can read the full story here about the history of Vermont’s school resource officer program and how students of color say they’ve been affected.

Contact Elizabeth Murray at 802-651-4835 or emurray@freepressmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LizMurrayBFP.