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Education

Poudre School District Renews One-Year Police Contracts

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Poudre School Disctrict
Screenshot from the Poudre School District's Board of Education meeting on June 23, 2020.

Poudre School District will still have police officers in its schools next school year.

The Poudre School District Board of Education voted 6-1 on Tuesday to renew its school resource officer (SRO) contracts with Fort Collins Police Services, the Larimer County Sheriff's Department and the Timnath Police.

Vice President Rob Petterson approved the motion to renew. He said he does not believe the "implicit assumption" that removing SROs would change the disciplinary practices that disproportionately affect students of color. He considered the issue to be the systemic processes in the district.

"Some of those may in fact and likely do in fact, from what we've heard, disproportionately affect our students of color," he said. "We need to understand that, we need to get into why that's happening, and we need to get that to change. So that all students are treated equitably."

The original vote was postponed after students protested and hundreds of community members emailed the board, calling for the district to end the SRO contracts and make changes to policing in schools.

27% of students in Poudre School District (PSD) are minorities. But during the 2018-2019 school year, the discipline rate for students of color was almost 44%.

Board Director Naomi Johnson voted to not renew the contracts. Despite witnessing a "great partnership" between SROs, schools and students, she doesn't think the district should hire police officers to work in the schools. While the current protests have put a spotlight on SRO practice, she said the criminalization of students and the school-to-prison pipeline have been researched for decades.

"Today, our community is asking for a change. This is not a criticism of our current SROs," she said. "I remain concerned about the district's discipline matrix and escalation to criminal citations. And I look forward to closely examining this process in the coming months."

College student Kobi Salinas graduated from Poudre High School in 2019. He spearheaded the movement to remove SROs from PSD schools after attending a protest against police brutality in Denver earlier this month. While there, he heard Denver Public Schools Board of Education was planning to end its contract with the Denver Police Department (the board unanimously approved the termination the following week).

Salinas, who is Latino, said he's very disappointed with both the board and district administration. But he will continue to fight to remove SROs from schools.

"They have chosen to back a system that works in their favor while oppressing those who's voices are already silent," he said. "The administration made no effort to address our concerns and the board failed to show the courage and leadership we need in these times."

The contracts are for the 2020-2021 fiscal year and take effect on July 1. They include a detailed evaluation process. The SRO program will be evaluated three times during the school year by a committee comprised of district officials, the security manager and SRO supervisors. Discipline data will also be tracked and analyzed on an ongoing basis.

A Community Advisory Council comprised of community members, including students and representatives from the board of education, school district and the three law enforcement agencies will meet at least three times during the school year. It will provide consistent oversight, feedback on the SRO program and develop standard procedures that ensure equitable policing outcomes.

During the board meeting, John McKay, director of language, culture and equity, presented a plan for community engagement with district stakeholders. This includes listening to the discipline experiences of students of color and parents, and engaging with staff and SROs.

In addition to the Community Advisory Council, the community engagement plan will work with the Equity and Diversity Advisory Council (EDAC) and create a Student Equity Coalition, a Teacher Equity Coalition and a Student and Family Engagement Program specialist.

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