School Board Candidate Christina Gomez Schmidt: police in schools can de-esclate conflict

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Christina Gomez Schmidt. Photo supplied.

When it comes to one hot-button issue in the Madison School Board race, Christina Gomez Schmidt is in favor of maintaining the status quo.

“I support the SRO’s in our schools,” Gomez Schmidt said, referring to school resource officers, the Madison police officers whose contract has been controversial over the past several years. “I see their role as to build relationships with students and staff so that they can de-escalate conflict.”

Gomez Schmidt is a candidate for School Board Seat 6, running against Maia Pearson to fill the seat being vacated by Kate Toews. She has a variety of experiences with the Madison Metropolitan School District from the past 14 years that inform her support of the school resource officers.

Gomez Schmidt said school resource officers’ resolutions of multiple safety issues in past months has affirmed her confidence in their presence.

“Their work reduces the need for other law enforcement to be called into our schools,” Gomez Schmidt said. 

Gomez Schimdt qualified in the school board primary for the general election on April 7. The elected candidate will sit on the board when the decision to renew the SRO contract with the district. The renewal of this past June for SROs in all four mainstream high schools is for the next three years. The board vote was 4-3, and the current Seat 6 incumbent, Kate Toews, voted in favor of the contract renewal.

The current SRO contract with the district requires quarterly meetings with police and district officials to assess arrest rates based on student racial and gender identity and disability status. Gomez Schmidt believes these current implications are critical. 

“As a board member, I would want to continue that process to really make sure we're getting good information from the schools from the administrators about the role of the SROs in the school,” Gomez Schmidt said.

Gomez Schmidt has attended many board meetings and is watching the process closely. She said she is aware of the public comments of opposition to police presence but also uses personal conversations to understand the situation better.

“(I am) talking to staff, parents, teachers, students, and trying to really understand the issues in the relationship that [SROs] have with students and with the staff at the schools,” Gomez Schmdit said. 

Gomez Schmidt is in full support of the district’s approach to addressing discipline disparities in the Behavior Education Plan, a plan that focuses on teaching and learning instead of punishment for students in the district.

“The behavior education plan has important goals of reducing disparities in expensive suspensions and expulsions for students of color and students with disabilities. And I think that work is really important to continue,” Gomez Schmidt said.

The Minnesota native has a long history of education advocacy work in Madison. She worked with Simpson Street Free Press, Crestwood Elementary, Advanced Learning Advisory Committee, the district creating community partnerships. Gomez Schmidt founded a city wide advocacy group, Madison Partnership for Advanced Learning. She is currently the Director of Enrichment at Galin Education.

“Education and community has been at the heart of everything that I’ve done,” Gomez Schmidt said. 

The current disparities in Madison Public School, two possible referendums, and welcoming a new superintendent makes it a critical year for the district, which is why she chose to run for school board now. 

“I think adding my voice to the board is an important thing to do as we go through the transition period,” Gomez Schmidt said. “My ability to bring people together to find central solutions to issues and to work collaboratively with the community will be important on the board.”

The school board election is still scheduled for Tuesday, April 7, though many polling places have changed as the coronavirus pandemic has created a shortage of poll workers. All Madison polling places will offer curbside voting. Visit myvote.wi.gov to find yours polling place.

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