PORTAGE — More than 600 Portage High School students have signed a petition requesting Portage police officers return as their school resource officers.
However, the petition isn't likely to sway school officials' minds.
Junior Victor Ramirez began the petition about two months ago after several months of controversy between Portage Township Schools and city officials regarding school security.
The discussion ended when school officials cut ties with Portage police and began using part-time officers from Porter County and other jurisdictions as SROs.
The controversy, which Ramirez called "disappointing," garnered many "angry posts" on social media, but he thought those angry posts weren't going to accomplish anything and began the petition process.
Ramirez said he has nothing against the officers currently working at the high school, nor does he feel unsafe because they are not Portage officers, but still wants Portage officers rehired because of the relationships students had formed with them during their tenure at the high school.
He said there is a second issue. He said he wants the superintendent and board to consider students' opinions on the issue.
"This dispute between the Portage Police Department and the PHS administration, the decision to replace our city student resource officers shines light to an issue more significant than the student resource officers at Portage High School," Ramirez wrote in a letter accompanying the petition.
"It exposes the lack of representation on important decisions that are being made. The voice of the student body is vital in decision making when those decisions are affecting us directly. This is a student lead petition."
"This petition is not in support of any personal agenda or political gain, but to publicize the student bodies thoughts of this issue. This is student-lead, our choice and our opinions. No one other than ourselves, the student body, ordered us to do this. It's our own safety and that started this dispute. After all, shouldn't the students opinions’ be considered, since it is our own lives and futures on the line if disaster strikes?" Ramirez wrote.
Ramirez emailed copies of the petitions to Superintendent Amanda Alaniz and the five School Board members on Monday. As of Wednesday morning, he had not received a response.
"Students at Portage High School have signed and submitted a petition regarding Portage Township Schools' School Resource Officer program. We would like to commend the students for their civic engagement and expressing their concerns in a formal and respectful manner," reads a statement by Director of Communication Melissa Deavers-Lowie.
"The PTS School Resource Officers are providing safe learning environments in our schools, sharing valuable resources with school staff members and the community, fostering positive relationships with our students and families, and developing strategies to resolve problems affecting the social and emotional well-being of our students. We appreciate their hard work and the dedication they have in supporting our students to help them reach their fullest potential," the statement reads.
Ramirez said he will continue to collect signatures.