Three of New Bedford's elementary schools opened last week, but the remaining schools, including New Bedford High School, open today. There was no "opening day" last year due to the pandemic. Here's hoping for a return to normalcy for the 2021-2022 school year.

Students and staff return equipped with masks and social distancing skills to protect them from COVID-19, but they will have little protection against the growing threat of school violence. The first line of defense will be the School Resource Officers that some continue to fight to eliminate from our schools. Those SROs will be a welcome sight for many left shaken by Wednesday's shooting incident at Mount Tabor High School in Winston-Salem, North Carolina that left a student dead.

There has been a lot of political discussion about the merits of the School Resource Officer program in the New Bedford Public School System. Superintendent Thomas Anderson has decided to keep the SROs with some as-yet unexplained modifications to the program.

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Opponents of the School Resource Officer program say police officers in schools create fear for minority and immigrant children. They say these students are often unfairly targeted by the police for arrest and other disciplinary measures.

Advocates for the SROs have maintained that theirs is a positive presence in the schools, that students and police develop relationships that assist in intelligence gathering that can prevent school violence. The officers can identify troubled students and intervene when an intervention is required to save that student.

School Resource Officers serve as a deterrent to those who might think about creating havoc in our otherwise defenseless schools.

Violent crime is on the rise all over the country. At the same time, police departments are being reduced at an alarming rate. Stationing police officers in our schools make sense for many reasons.

Those who oppose School Resource Officers in the New Bedford school system should work with Superintendent Anderson to make the program more effective rather than eliminate it.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at barry@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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