Board weighs continuing school resource officer program
With the expiration of its school resource officer contract, the Jamesville-DeWitt Central School District Board of Education is evaluating the intent and effectiveness of the program to determine if it should continue.
For both the 2018-19 and 2019-20 school year, the district contracted with the Town of DeWitt Police Department for the services of one full-time police officer to serve as the district’s school resource officer (SRO). The position was based at Jamesville-DeWitt High School but supported staff and students in the district’s other four buildings as needed.
Before deciding whether to enter into a new contract with the town for the 2020-21 school year, board members said they need more information on the program and its effectiveness.
The board approved launching the SRO program in 2018 following a recommendation from the District Safety Team. The position was intended to provide additional security at the high school while building positive relationships with students and staff.
At that time, as part of the safety team’s recommendations, the district also added four new counseling/social worker positions to support students in kindergarten through grade 8, placing one position in each of the three elementary schools and the middle school.
Since the May 25 death of George Floyd, who was killed during an arrest in Minnesota that was captured on video and sparked protests across the country, the board of education and district leadership have received numerous requests from the community asking the district to reconsider continuing the program.
Some of the feedback that the district has received is that the district should reallocate the money planned for the 2020-21 SRO contract, which is about $100,000, on more counselors to support students’ mental health as they deal with the ongoing COVID-19 public health crisis and national, and local, struggle for racial equality and equity.
During the board’s July 13 meeting, board members said they need to evaluate the goals of the program, its effectiveness and whether it is the best use of district funds to meet the needs of students now, given that the program was created two years ago.
Board President Wendy Rhodes said the board is united in making sure the district and its schools are safe and welcoming, and that board members must decide if having a uniformed police officer is the best way to achieve that goal.
Information the board requested to inform its decision include:
Program successes and challenges from the past two years
Data related to J-D’s SRO program, such as the numbers of arrests made pre- and post-SRO; number of daily student engagements and time spent in classrooms educating students on law-related topics
Feedback from students, staff and the district’s most recent SRO
Fall school reopening plans
The standard of care in the local community, which would include reviewing what other local school districts are doing regarding their SRO programs
District Safety Team research that lead to the SRO recommendation
If it decides to enter into a new contract for the start of school, the board would need to approve it at its Aug. 31 meeting.