A Post About School Safety and SRO Concerns in my School District

 

 

 

 

 

UPDATED 11/13/13

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It has come to my attention that my school district intends to replace the existing uniformed active police officer SRO that we have engeged with a retired civilian former officer SRO.  The matter has been placed as an item listed on the consent agenda for action Tuesday night.

While this post is written with my school district in mind, I have plans to write a more generic version at a later date. This is for informational purposes. Without debate, this is not a post to discuss gun control, 2A or the Safe Act. This is a post about the seconds over minutes that must be considered in response time should an emergency arise.

It should be noted, that I have not had the chance to personally review the proposed contract regarding the SRO so I am not fully familiar with the candidate’s qualifications nor am I familiar with the terms so I wil not issue an opinion in support or against the candidate proposed to replace the existing active PO SRO.

I am aware of who the candidates are and what their qualifications are generally. The active PO SRO and the retired former police officer SRO are both are equally qualifed experientially.

I have concerns  about the switch from an actve uniformed PO SRO to a retired, non uniformed former PO SRO  that I would like to share in hopes that they will be addressed and considered before the BOE Members take a vote about this matter. Perhaps other parents can opine or share my thoughts.

As a procedural matter, the contract should not be approved as part of the consent agenda. On page 8 of my school district Shared Decision Making Agremeent it states that “matters of safety, health and caring of schools” fall within the purview of the shared decision making committee. I am not aware of any laws that would tend to preclude this subject matter from being considered via shared decision making. Which begs the question, was the decision to switch from an active police officer SRO to a retired SRO addressed and fully discussed with stakeholders subject to shared decision making? Did parents, students and teachers and stakeholders have a say, via their representatives, in arriving at this decision/contract at the outset? If not, why not? In my opinion, whether to replace an active PO with a retired PO to serve as an SRO requires shared decision making subject to input and approval of a committee of stakeholders before such a contract can be submitted to the BOE for action. If I am wrong about this, please feel free to provide a response and point me in the direction that affords the district the right to make complete and unilateral decisions about this subject without stakeholder involvement.

The district website provides no information about whether this matter was discussed and voted on by commitee members and there is no evdence that it was subject to shared decision making at all. Correct me if I am wrong. It would seem that this is a fatal flaw. Thus, this matter should be pulled from the consent agenda noting that it warrants further discussion and should be submitted for further action before the shared decision making committee before it is submitted to the BOE for approval of the same.

The anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting is rapidly approaching. As a parent of a Kindergartner myself, I feel knots in my stomach just thinking about that tragic day. Im sure many parents feel the same way. The SRO program is a vital and crucial program and I am very interested in being kept apprised of matters as they relate to student safety, among other things. This change comes as a surpise.

While my school district has had great safety record and solid safety plans in place, it is not lost on me that parents and stakeholders have a right to have a say in the decision that may, god forbid, result in sacrificing or saving lives. Again, I make no opinion for or against any SRO candidate. I am simply feel that the BOE should examine the following concerns in order to make a fully informed decision about the best arrangement and candidate for the position of SRO.

There is no savings associated with the switch. In fact, there will be more costs.

According to the National School Shield Task Force, one armed person is as effective as a SWAT team at suppressing threat of violence and keeping it from progressing to more targets – our kids! Personally, I am thrilled to have a uniformed, armed SRO on campus and in sight. I personally feel that active, uniformed police presence on campus daily is a good thing. Thats just my personal opinion.

The difference of even a few minutes can mean a class room of students lives. Professionally trained law enforcement officials preach this mantra endlessly. Since the most violent attacks at a school were preceded by multiple early warning signs great diligence must be afforded to persons at risk who exhibit threatening behavior and pose a risk to the school. In some cases where school violence has occurred, sadly, these signs are wholly missed partly due to lack of communication between school departments and law enfocement personnel. Which is why lawful, open and ongoing communication between school districts, the SRO and local law enforcement agencies is most crucial.

It is a sad fact that most active shooter scenarios in schools that have occurred are over within minutes with only seconds in regard to decision making. This fact illustrates that the capability of a candidate who can provide greater and most rapid communication to effect an immediate response should be utilized.

Each school that employs an SRO should have Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), or an “interagency agreement,” between the appropriate law-enforcement agency and the school district. This contract should define the duties and responsibilities of the SRO, as well as the applicable laws, rules and regulations. It should be understood that the objective of the SRO is not to increase juvenile arrests within a school, but to provide security and to support the normal disciplinary policies of a school consistent with the MOU. Does such an MOU with police exist in the proposed SRO contract scenario? The BOE should consider this as well.

Close coordination, rapid deployment/response time and emergency planning and an Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with local police and fire departments are essential to a successful SRO program. The BOE should look at each scenario and take each of these issues into consideration in making a decision to staff the SRO position.

Other issues to consider are the extent and cost of active training that is to involved including continuing professional education, direct radio communication with police head quarters during a shooting or other major incident and whether the candidate will have legal acces to confidential police info for investigations and consistent communication between themselves and police/fire agencies to effect the SRO duties and objectives.

Even more considerations concern the value of having uniformed presence to deter problems, a police car on site, inter agency cooperation between police departments and mainting good communication between the SRO, school and local law enforcement as well should be considered.

So, the SRO program should include formal agreements between school districts and law enforcement agencies regarding officer selection, funding, training, supervision, evaluation, and associated issues particularly in cases where benefits and/or liability insurance will be supplied to the SRO at the district level versus provided by the police agency. Has this been priced out and discussed? From what I understand, it has not.

Will the school district get a discount on their insurance for having an active Police Officer serving as an SRO as opposed to a retired or civilian SRO? Has this sum been established? According to Security magazine, insurance costs vary with some premiums being higher in the event of an armed guard/personnel not lower. Others give schools a discount for employing active personnel. Looks like it depends on the terms of the liabaility ins provided.

The application process should be considerd. Was scouting for an SRO subject to an open selection process? If not, why not?

UPDATE 11/13/13: To further augment this post, I offer the ACLUs white paper discussing the MOU that should exist between district and SROs relating to governance and student rights. policies.https://www.aclu.org/files/pdfs/racialjustice/whitepaper_policinginschools.pdf

Again ultimately the final decision rests with the BOE. These are legitimate questions that I have as a parent of child enrolled in this school whose safety rests in the hands of district personnel. After the tragedy in Newtown and its anniversary fast approaching, I simply cannot apologize for raising these concerns and asking that they be addressed at the outset.

References:
http://www.schoolsecurity.org/…

http://www.securitymagazine.com/…

http://b.3cdn.net/…/78db1dd92e7fc2f6e8_21m6bck09.pdf

http://blogs.edweek.org/…

Intergovernmental Agreement between Denver Public School and Denver Police Dept
http://blogs.edweek.org/…/IGA%20with%20summary.pdf

http://www.education.virginia.gov/…

National School Board Association discusses SRO arrangements:
http://www.schoolsecurity.org/resources/KeepingThePeace.pdf

Department of Justice Report Discussing Assignment of Officers to Schools
http://www.cops.usdoj.gov/…

NYSSBA Endorses SRO at School
http://www.nyssba.org/…/

NPR Story – How to be the Good Guy With a Gun at School
http://www.npr.org/…

USA Today Article discussing NRA BEst Practices
http://www.usatoday.com/…/02/22/nra-school-shield/1936721/

Parents fund an Armed Officer to Patrol Private School
http://www.myfoxphoenix.com/…

Security Magazine Best Practices in School Safety
http://www.securitymagazine.com/…

C-Span- Education Committee Looks At School Safety
http://www.c-span.org/…/10737438391-1/

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