Policing Madison schools: Are the days numbered for school resource officers?


During the 1995-96 school year, a pilot program placed police officers at West and La Follette for most of each school day.

At West, the idea to bring officers into schools — instead of having detectives assigned to schools on an as-needed basis — came after a group of students in student government did an exchange with Janesville Craig High School.

“We took about 50 kids to Janesville Craig,” said Mike Lipp, a former West High teacher who was the staff adviser for student government at the time. “(Officers) were not in uniform, but were in a blazer and were armed. They were oftentimes in classrooms such as social studies classes and discussed things like the rights of citizens.”

Lipp and then-West principal Libby Burmaster thought the Janesville model could work in Madison.

“Libby and I agreed that an officer assigned to the school on a regular basis who interacts with the students during good times as well as during times of stress was a better model,” Lipp said in an email.

The Janesville reference is rather ironic. A recent Madison school executive responded to my question on learning from other, more budget constrained districts with a “I would never do that”.