Alison Williams can’t count the number of times she was sent to the office of Irving Middle School, an East Norman school just off 24th Avenue and Alameda Street, where she was pat searched by the school’s male student resource officers without her mother’s knowledge, where she once faced the threat of arrest and where she was sometimes held for so many hours that she was almost held back a year because of how much class she had missed.
One February afternoon, Williams, then 14, said she was called to the office because of a suspicion that she was in possession of drugs. The SRO officer found nothing.
After two-and-a-half years of similar incidents, usually based on rumors, Williams said, her mother Brandi Studley, Norman’s recently elected Ward 1 councilmember, had enough, and pulled her out of school — just one month before schools nationwide went virtual due to the pandemic.
According to SRO summary reports from May 2019 and March 2020, received through an open records request, Black students were 22.5 percent of students involved in SRO reported incidents. Black students make up 6.7 percent of the Norman Public Schools student population.
Williams is 15 now, and was one of the youngest to speak at the city council meetings where the police budget was being discussed, as well as the first to bring up the SRO program.
Williams said she felt SRO’s level of involvement was unnecessary even before she had interactions with them at her school.
“I thought (the purpose) was just (for) safety on the outside, but they're inside the school and doing stuff in the school, and I definitely did not expect that,” Williams said. “I thought the involvement was a little bit overwhelming because my whole childhood has been weird or bad experiences with police officers.”
Many others brought up the SRO program at the June city council budget meetings, and Ward 1 Councilmember Kate Bierman said she would like to see a change in their uniforms.
“I would like to see our SROs in softer uniforms and event day staff in different uniforms,” Bierman said. “Not overdressing or militarizing our dress when we don't need to be.”
Williams said she wants to speak out about her experiences with the hope that someday,others don’t have to go through the same thing.
“I don't think I've ever done something like that before,” Williams said. “I've never inspired people like that before. … I thought everybody was going to hate me, but on the contrary, more people were able to stand up.”