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Four school resource officers will remain in high schools through 2020

Four school resource officers will remain in high schools through 2020

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Madison Police Officer Justin Creech is the school resource officer at West High School.

There will be a police officer in each of the Madison Metropolitan School District’s four comprehensive public high schools until at least January 2021.

The first deadline for the school district to notify the Madison Police Department that it wanted to remove one of the school resource officers, which could have been effective June 15, 2020, passed Sept. 15 with no notification. That deadline, along with one next year, was set in the contract approved on a 4-3 vote in June to cover the 2019-20, 2020-21 and 2021-22 school years.

A statement from School Board president Gloria Reyes provided to the Cap Times in an email from district spokeswoman Rachel Strauch-Nelson stated the district needed “more time to discuss that option, and will return to that discussion at the next deadline set forth in the contract.”

"If we decide to exercise this option, we will ensure that we do it in the most thoughtful and comprehensive way possible,” Reyes said in the statement. “That requires more time for careful planning of what an alternative model could look like. As the school year starts, we will focus on implementing the provisions of the new contract and exploring that in-depth planning, before making a decision."

The next deadline for the district to submit notice is June 10, 2020, which could reduce the number of SROs to three effective Jan. 1, 2021.

“The notice must include the name of the school that will no longer have a SRO assigned and the reason for said reduction,” the contract states. “MMSD understands that the removal of a SRO from a school may result in reassignment of some or all of the remaining SROs among the remaining schools and that the assignments of the SROs shall be determined at the sole discretion of the city.”

Meeting minutes from a closed session in May obtained by the Cap Times stated, “There was broad support for working towards at least one school with no ERO/SRO.”

Leading up to the contract approval, protesters repeatedly showed up at meetings calling for the district to eliminate the SRO positions and instead fund roles like social workers or guidance counselors. Activists from Freedom Inc. have continued to show up at meetings and again Monday night called to eliminate the positions.

Freedom Inc. and others opposed to officers in schools have pointed out that black students made up more than 80% of those arrested in each of the last three years, even as the total number of arrests have gone down.

The 2018-19 school year saw more students referred to Youth Court than given citations in MMSD schools, according to data from the Dane County TimeBank and Madison Police Department. Youth Court serves as a restorative justice alternative to fines or conviction.

Interim superintendent Jane Belmore said in a statement provided through Strauch-Nelson that SROs are part of a “comprehensive model” of school safety in MMSD.

“We have appreciated the thoughtful work of the SROs with our school safety teams as we focus on implementing all of the provisions of our new contract, particularly focusing on positive relationship building, and keeping all of our students safe,” Belmore said in the statement. “We value the expertise that our SROs, our students and particularly students of color, and our staff have brought to this conversation. We’ll continue this important work through the year, and work with our board to determine any potential planning for a pilot going forward."

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Scott Girard is the local k-12 education reporter at the Cap Times. A Madison native, he joined the paper in 2019 after working for six years for Unified Newspaper Group. Follow him on Twitter @sgirard9.

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