Plan In Place To Make OKC's Elementary Schools Safer

Monday, February 23rd 2015, 10:34 pm
By: News 9

Violence inside elementary schools is becoming more common. News 9 searched through data to show you the most dangerous elementary schools in the metro. At the same time, we discovered a program started this school year is showing promise at keeping students safe.

"It was beyond fighting, it was violent," remembered Nikki Coshow, the principal at Bodine Elementary School in Oklahoma City.

This was just three years ago, when Bodine Elementary had a reputation, the school you didn't want your kids to attend.

"It was real bad," said parent Randy White. "I mean kids were really out of control."

"Our days were spent doing nothing but discipline, that's all you could do," said Coshow, who was an assistant administrator at the time. "Weapons were brought to school by students. They felt like they had to be protected from the other students."

Coshow is now the principal and has worked with teachers and parents to turn it around.

"We've learned that the children are not bad kids, the neighborhood is not a bad neighborhood," Coshow said.

She said the school just lacked structure, structure they now have along with police officers placed inside the schools.

"There was animosity from the kids, they weren't certain why I was here," said Sgt. Jose Pena, with the Oklahoma City Police Department.

Pena is an SRO, or school resource officer. The SRO program, paid in part by the city of Oklahoma City, puts police officers in the district's elementary schools, on a rotating basis.

"I mentor some of the kids with day-to-day issues they have," said Sgt. Pena. "I talk with them about, you know, certain problems they have, it's not just enforcing laws."

Since the program began last fall, Bodine is still at the top of the list when it comes to fights, with 18. Arthur Elementary School had 14 fights so far this year, North Highland Elementary had 12 and Britton and Gatewood Elementary schools both had 11. But problems overall at Bodine are drastically improving with 322 suspensions three years ago to only 22 so far this year. Coshow credits that with her staff, parents and the officers all working together.

"They are not here to arrest children every day, they are not here to break up fights," said Coshow. "They are here as a part of our educational service."

"I feel like this is an investment into my future and the future of Oklahoma City because eventually these children grow up and the hope is they stay here and they'll be productive citizens and contribute to our community," said Officer Vanessa Hurd, Oklahoma City Police Department and current SRO at Bodine.

"I think they keep the school safer," said sixth grader Perrisa Borders.

"Everyone's happy, my friends like their teachers and there's no bullying anymore," said sixth grader Bibiana Maruqez.

"Kids are great, it's very rewarding," said Sgt. Pena. "It's probably the most rewarding job I've had with the department."

"I see the changes and I love it," said White. "The kids are more in control when they see the police and I think the parents will feel safer."

"Students have come back, families have come back that did not feel it was safe the first year," said Coshow. "It is the most amazing turnaround that we have ever seen."

There are currently six SROs who serve inside the Oklahoma City Public School District's elementary schools. Two more will be added in August, for a total of eight. 

View the Oklahoma City Public School District's school resource officers' activity log.