SCASD Board of Directors renews agreements for school resource officers

State College Area High School. Photo of Geoff Rushton | StateCollege.com

The State College Area School Board voted Monday to approve agreements that will continue to provide three school resource officers from local police departments.

As in the past, a State College police officer will be assigned full-time to the high school and another to the Delta Building and Mount Nittany Middle School. A Patton Township police officer will be assigned 20 hours per week to Park Forest Middle School. All three will also check with elementary schools and extracurricular activities.

According to the memorandums of understanding with the municipalities, the school district will pay 75% of State College officer salaries and 50% of the Patton Township officer salary.

SROs “hold an important place in school and campus safety,” but are not involved in student discipline, Acting Superintendent Curtis Johnson wrote in a memo to the board. District officials have previously said the SROs can help with criminal cases involving students, but do not make arrests or determine charges.

“…[I]Importantly, SROs serve multiple functions, all of which are grounded in student and employee safety,” Johnson wrote. “In addition, the SROs provide our district with specific emergency response training, conduct safety audits of our campuses, and serve as a liaison between the district and our community’s first responders.”

The board voted 8-0 to approve the agreements, which are renewed on an annual basis. Carline Crevecoeur abstained, saying she felt the issue needed more community input.

“I really wish we were lucky enough to get a lot of community input into this discussion because of all the emails we’ve received and all the discussion this has had,” Crevecoeur said. “So that’s what really bothers me with this vote today, because I don’t think people really understood what we’re doing and I don’t think we got enough feedback from the community.”

Crevecoeur noted that among members of the public who spoke about the issue at a climate, culture and learning committee meeting in August, “not everyone sees SROs in the same light. Not everyone has had the same experience. »

Some community members urged the district to maintain or increase the number of SROs, citing the lack of officers in elementary schools. (The district also employs two internal security professionals at the high school and contracts with Standing Stone Consulting Inc. up to 10 security guards in high school and one in each of the two middle schools.)

But others questioned whether police should be in schools and asked the district to consider to research which found that students of color tend to feel less safe with a police presence at school and have a disproportionate number of negative interactions.

Cynthia Young, a member of the district’s race and marginalized population task force, said the outlook is often not simply for or against ORS. At an open house organized by the task force two years ago, this was the number one issue, she said.

“I was surprised it was the number one issue, because it’s not like there was an ORS incident in our district that caused it,” Young said. “But I think it speaks to the fact that this issue is complicated and actually it’s not just kind of a pro or con. It’s very multi-layered. I’m saying as someone who knows Well these questions and what I think is missing from the discussion is that the question of an ORS in school is not just whether we like the person doing it. actually about the national climate and the regional climate and the state climate and how police violence is constantly in the news.

For this reason, Young said there was a need to raise public awareness of the role of SROs.

“If we had more public education about what an SRO does, we could also have substantive, evidence-based discussions and also based on the research that exists on the impact of SROs,” Young said. “But I guess the most important thing is that we would have a clear idea of ​​the impact of having an ORS on our students, which seems to me to be the most important point.”

SCASD uses the Pennsylvania Schools Climate Survey to help collect data on safety and security, including the perception of ORS in our schools and how best to use them in our district,” said Johnson, adding that the survey and specific questions on ORS will be discussed at the next meeting of the Culture, Climate and Learning Committee.

Board member Peter Buck suggested the district host a public issues forum “a very well-led, publicized and focused conversation” about SROs. He also said the district should liaise with the State College Community Oversight Board for the police department.

Young, who also chairs the Community Oversight Council, agreed.

“The COB can absolutely work with the school district to get feedback, to think about what kinds of problems an SRO presents,” she said.

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