TEMPE, AZ — Tempe Union High School District hosted a work-study session on Wednesday to discuss the funding of school resource officers for four of the district's seven high schools.
The work-study session was not the final vote for such funding, but a platform for discussion among district leadership.
Emily Giel, a 2015 graduate of Desert Vista High School, told ABC15 she sent in letters to the governing board asking that, rather than funding four school resource officers (SROs), the $450,000 considered for their funding go elsewhere, particularly mental health.
"Instead of pouring that into the police department and having more armed police officers on our campuses, I think we could be doing a lot of good with that. Like right now we could be having a lot of mental health...When students need help, there is really nowhere for them to turn," said Giel.
Corona Del Sol teacher Jennifer Bart believes every school should be considered independently since each school's population is different.
"I think every school community is different. So I don't think (there is) a one-size-fits-all rule for de-funding of SROs in Tempe. We have very different populations in Tempe, we have schools with 3,000 students and some with 1,200. A school with 1,200 students may not need an SRO," said Bart.
This conversation comes amid the national conversation happening regarding the reform of police departments. Giel says while she attended high school, guidance counselors weren't readily available to help with social or emotional issues of the student body. In Arizona, there is an average of one counselor for every 905 students.
"Guidance counselors have a lot of work with college entrance exams and preparing students academically for college. The mental health aspect was not really there," she adds.
The funding concern comes to the forefront as the School Safety grant, which covered the cost for SROs at all seven schools, comes to an end.
Giel said, "$450,000 for a school district... that's a lot of money."