August 26, 2020: Task force to evaluate school resource officer program
As part of the Jamesville-DeWitt Central School District’s efforts to evaluate its school resource officer program, the district is putting together a task force that includes staff members, parents, students and community members.
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, J-D Board of Education members said they need more information on the program and its effectiveness. At its Aug. 24 meeting, the board voted against entering into a temporary contract that would have continued the program through December 2020, when the task force is expected to make a recommendation to the board on whether to continue the program.
To reach its recommendation, the task force will:
Create an online student, family and staff perception survey;
Review the history of the district’s SRO program, the standardized SRO training and the goals of the previous agreement between the town and district;
Review SRO programs across benchmark, comparison and equity-focused districts; and
Analyze survey results, disaggregated school discipline data and SRO activity reports.
Task force members will be invited to participate via recommendations from existing groups, such as from the Faculty Association, which will provide recommendations for half the teachers and staff and then invitations will be sent to the other half to guarantee different roles, backgrounds, demographics and experience levels are included.
“This process will ensure that the task force takes advantage of the strengths, racial diversity, varied perspectives and knowledge of the community,” said Nate Franz, who is co-chairing the task force and is the district’s assistant superintendent for curriculum, instruction and equity.
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.
“Students of color are disproportionately impacted by the discipline and criminal justice systems, both locally and nationally,” Franz said. “We will ensure that their perspectives are amplified and given elevated consideration.”
During the board meeting, board members also discussed several other issues related to the SRO program, including:
Ensuring that any memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the town and school district is fully compliant with state Education Law Section 2801-A, which requires stakeholder input into the MOU development and a 30-day public comment period regarding the safety plan;
The understanding that there will only be a fraction of the number of students in the buildings at any given time compared to previous years, at least for the first 10 weeks, and likely longer;
Concerns regarding potential 20% cuts in state funding this year;
Recognizing that the town of DeWitt police department is still a safety resource for the schools, as they always have been, and as they were prior to the SRO program being implemented two years ago.
Who is on the task force?