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Iowa wrestling legend Dan Gable is weighing in on how to protect local schools in a post-Parkland world. 

Gable wrote a letter to the Iowa City school board and Iowa City Council, urging members to find a way to work together and fund school resource officers. Gable did not respond to interview inquiries Wednesday morning.

How Iowa City school leaders feel about police on campus

Iowa City schools are currently grappling with how to fund a laundry list of ideas put forward by the School Safety Advisory Committee to make schools safer that includes universal mental health screening for students, establishing a threat-assessment team and curriculum for teaching social-emotional skills.

The committee initially proposed adding school resource officers to middle and high school campuses, but the recommendation got a cold reception from the Iowa City Community School Board. 

Community members crowded the open comment portion of a school board meeting in April to advocate against the recommendation to add police to secondary campuses. Board members agreed, stating that the school district had an existing problem with over-disciplining students of color relative to their white peers. 

They worried adding police to campuses would exacerbate the problem and lead to more arrests of students of color. 

Several community members referenced the ACLU report "Cops and No Counselors." The report looks at federal data documenting arrests on campus to draw the conclusion  students of color and students with disabilities are disproportionately harmed by a police presence. 

A 2013 report from Hanover Research, a consultant the School Safety Advisory Committee referenced in discussions, notes that there are conflicting reports on the effectiveness of school resource officers. 

"While some sources have argued that school officers serve as a deterrent to violence, others are far more skeptical and warn against potentially detrimental effects on students," reads the report. 

An Olympian and a grandfather's thoughts on SROs

In writing to the City Council, Gable, Olympic wrestling gold medalist and University of Iowa coaching icon, drew on his approach to coaching to make his point.

"When I meet adversity, I take it on and make the necessary changes," he wrote. "I also tell my athletes and my family to be tough. When it comes to safety; we need to be tough." 

He also drew on his experience with family members who work for or attend Iowa City Community schools. He wrote that his son-in-law coaches City High baseball; his daughters have addressed the school board and substitute taught on campuses; his grand kids are students. 

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Gable referred the city council to a video address he made after the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida. He also referenced more recent local headlines, like the threats made at Southeast Junior High this May.

School staff notified parents that they confiscated knives from a student who made threats toward the school. The district did not release specific details about the threats.

The incident scared Gable, as did the drive-by shooting that occurred near Mercer Park on the early evening of June 13, he noted in the letter. No one was injured in the shooting incident. A teenager was later arrested in relation to the shooting, but not before police and city officials held a meeting with neighbors who said they no longer felt safe in their homes.

Gable noted a "sense of urgency" among families and principals in his plea to the city council. 

West High Principal Gregg Shoultz, was part of the safety committee and a proponent of school resource officers. He told the school board that police officers — specifically police officers with well-defined responsibilities — would help his campus better curb school violence and drug sales on campuses.

Gable referenced the Department of Justice, which offers grants for school resource officers, in saying that having police in schools is critical to a threat assessment team. 

"Don't resist what works. Teamwork works," he wrote, concluding the letter. "Please come together and do what it takes to make this happen to keep you community safe. Our children and everyone are counting on you." 

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