Sept. 16, 2020: Board approves short-term school resource officer agreement
While the Jamesville-DeWitt Central School District evaluates its school resource officer program, a Town of DeWitt police officer will be on school grounds at least through December.
At its Sept. 14 meeting, the J-D Board of Education authorized a short-term memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Town of DeWitt Police Department for a full-time police officer to serve as the district’s school resource officer (SRO) through Dec. 31. The position is based at Jamesville-DeWitt High School but will support staff and students in the district’s other four buildings as needed.
In July, before deciding whether to enter into a new annual contract with the town for the 2020-21 school year, board members said that they wanted more information on the program and its effectiveness. The district is in the process of creating a task force to evaluate the program and make a recommendation on the program’s future.
The group will include staff members, parents, students and community members and 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.
Board of education and community members have been debating whether the district should continue the SRO program, which was launched 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.
During recent board meeting public comment sessions, there have been numerous pro and con statements from community members about the program, and the board recently received a petition with 1,000 signatures in support of the program and another petition with more than 1,300 signatures opposing it.
In August, the board had rejected a short-term agreement with the town citing several concerns, such as ensuring stakeholder input into the MOU development and concerns regarding potential 20 percent cuts in state funding this year. After making modifications to the MOU, the board voted 5 to 4 on Sept. 14 to approve the short-term contract with the understanding that the task force would solicit stakeholder input.
“While our community is united in its commitment to ensuring a safe, calm, nurturing learning environment for all our students, it is divided on how to best accomplish this, especially whether an SRO program is part of that solution,” Board President Wendy Rhodes said. “I look forward to the task force completing a rigorous analysis of relevant data and best practices and recommending a path forward that furthers our shared goals of safety, equity and support for all students.”