Do we really follow the data, or do we choose what data to follow? The experts and politicians tell us they follow the data, but do they?

Let’s look at the current trend with local school boards. The Minneapolis School Board announced shortly after the horrible death of George Floyd that it will be “ending its relationship with the Minneapolis Police Department.” Was that based on emotion or the data? If so, what data?

Let’s that a look at some data from students collected in 2019 as part of the Minnesota Student Survey. What do the students say about having a School Resource Officer in the school? Statewide, 94.9% of 8th-graders, 94.6% of 9th-graders and 93.8% of 11th-graders agreed it was a good idea to have a SRO at school.

Let’s drill down further in the data. What about the Minneapolis School district alone? 89.9% of 9th-graders and 82.9% of 11th-graders agreed it was a good idea to have an SRO at school.

What about the school boards in Winona and Rochester that are looking at removing SROs from their schools? Unfortunately, Winona School District data for 2019 was not complete. However, 2016 data was complete, indicating 87.9% of 8th-graders, 90.7% of the 9th-graders and 83.8% of 11-graders agreed it was a good idea to have an SRO at school.

So that leaves Rochester? Of the Rochester students surveyed in those same grades in 2019, 91% of 8th-graders, 94% of 9th-graders and 95% of 11-graders agreed it was a good idea to have an SRO at school.

So, what happened? Are we ignoring this data?

If students think it’s a good idea to have an officer in the school, why is the school board removing them? If our leaders only made decisions based on who was the loudest or protested in our chambers, they would NOT be true representatives of the entire community. We can speculate all day long, but at face value it appears these decisions are being based on current affairs, which without a doubt, the George Floyd death was one of the toughest videos I have had to watch in my life!

But maybe our school boards are making decisions based on other data. If so, I say, show me the data! Data is a critical piece to any decision and it's important that we respect the data. We are talking hard data here, NOT to be confused with projections.

We certainly are living in difficult times and need to review how our schools, police and communities can transform to be more inclusive while rebuilding trust in our justice system. On the surface this looks like a police problem, but I assure you the data will show you we are only looking at the end result of a series of system failures.

We all need to believe in the human spirit and our will to succeed. I’m not sure if I buy into what some politicians are calling “our last chance.” That sounds more like a political buzz line than a call to action. How about we remember the lessons we learned (but maybe forgot) in our history and grow from our mistakes. Hope is a powerful force, and we need to use that as our stepping stone for better communities, schools and police departments. We must hold our leaders to a much higher standard and not allow them to continue to blame the other side or make excuses.

Bill Spitzer was the Mayor of St. Charles for 10 years and a 31-year law enforcement officer. Currently he is working in an area school district highlighting the positive decisions students are making utilizing a positive community norms strategy.