Gun violence near PPS prompts district wide discussion


Miles Levine

Over the past few months, three Portland Public Schools (PPS), including Cleveland High School (pictured above), have experienced gun violence near their campuses.

With the rise of gun violence throughout Portland, students, administrators and board members across the district are working on plans to preserve school safety.

Three Portland Public Schools (PPS) have recently experienced gun violence near their campuses, prompting a district-wide discussion about safety in schools.

We meet every week, multiple times and talk about this. The district is committed to connecting principals with community resources,” said Lincoln Principal Peyton Chapman. “I want to make sure that any of our solutions actually solve the problem we’ve identified.”

One major topic of discussion is the possible reimplementation of school resource officers (SRO) in PPS schools. SROs are police officers with specialized training on how to interact, reprimand and de-escalate situations between students. They also have arresting privileges and usually bear firearms. 

Up until 2020, SROs were stationed at schools throughout the district. Chapman supports reinstating these officers and believes it would be a good investment.

I think they’re a resource that helps protect kids. I had positive experiences with our school resource officers [in the past],” said Chapman. “It would be nice to have that relationship again, where it’s a trusting relationship. We know that person is going to respond quickly because we have that relationship.”

Even with the support of principals, the reimplementation of SROs in high schools is not set in stone. Amy Kohnstamm is a member of the PPS Board of Education and she feels passionate about student safety.

“Gun violence right now, as you know, is an epidemic in our city, but it is impacting young people,” Kohnstamm said. 

She confirms that topics of gun violence are being discussed at the district level, yet nothing has been decided.

“I think it’s really interesting, because [there are] really strong feelings both ways,” said Kohnstamm. “I don’t know where we’re going to land but there’s a wide range of opinions and perspectives. Beyond school resource officers, there are other things the police can do. You know, they’ve all increased their presence, just patrolling around some of our high schools.”

Many people, especially youth, are against the reimplementation of SROs. 

Byronie McMahon is the student representative on the PPS Board of Education, and she works to elevate and amplify student voices throughout the district. McMahon, as well as the previous two student representatives, are against the reimplementation of SROs. 

“I think it’s really important to take into account that there’s an inherent distrust in police officers,” said McMahon. “I view SROs as more of a preventative or reactionary measure, rather than actually something that’s going to help to prevent school shootings, or even help in the case of a school shooting.”

McMahon hopes student voices are considered as discussion continues. 

“It is students that are the most directly impacted when issues regarding student safety come up,” said McMahon. “And so, [student voices are] the most important voices to keep in mind.”