The Hopkins School Board on Tuesday voted to remove police officers from Hopkins High School at the end of the year.
The action comes after Hopkins students called for change amid an increased push to end school resource officers (SROs) following the killing of George Floyd by now-former Minneapolis police on May 25.
The school district heard from nearly 1,200 students, staff, parents and community members regarding the district's use of Minnetonka Police Department officers as SROs, with "numerous" requests for the district to dissolve its contract with the department, according to school board chair Jennifer Bouchard and board documents.
And over the summer, Superintendent Rhoda Mhiripiri-Reed organized a group of three students and one recent graduate – Elliot Burman, Muna Musse, Aryam Gomez and George Nolan – to review the district's contract with police and come up with recommendations to the school board on what to do.
The students presented their findings during a workshop on Aug. 21 (all the details are here, starting on page 617). Then on Sept. 1, the school board supported the students' recommendations, voting 6-1 to end the regular presence of law enforcement at the high school by not renewing its contract with the Minnetonka Police Department when it expires at the end of the year.
"In Hopkins, student safety is of utmost importance. This safety I speak of includes physical safety, psychological safety, mental and socioemotional safety. Whether to continue our contract with the Minnetonka Police Department or not is a serious decision. I am grateful to our students for conducting this research, and I am grateful to the Hopkins School Board for the discussion. Our work now as a collective is to spend time thoughtfully determining how to build a positive and safe school culture for all of our students," Mhiripiri-Reed said in a statement to BMTN.
Minnetonka Police Chief Scott Boerboom told BMTN that the department is "disappointed the Hopkins School Board decided not to renew our school resource officer contract. It’s unfortunate we weren’t allowed the opportunity to be more involved in the process that led to this decision."
Boerboom continued, saying:
"We believe the SRO program provides tremendous value to the school district, especially in the areas of safety, security and community relations. One of the primary responsibilities of the SRO is to build positive relationships with students, which can have a lasting effect. The officers also act as a resource to help teachers and administrators solve problems. I personally served as the Hopkins High School SRO earlier in my career and have first-hand experience of the program’s many mutual benefits.
"We’ve had a great partnership with the Hopkins School District for more than 30 years, and it’s difficult to see it end.”
The School Board also approved two other recommendations from the students, which include reallocating funds from the SRO contract to mental health support and building a positive school climate and "review our discipline and safety policies and bring revised policies before the Board that emphasize ways of maintaining positive safety without police presence, promoting restorative practices, and eradicating racial disparities in district-wide disciplinary practices."
Conversations about whether SROs in schools actually make things safer is not new – the larger Twin Cities metro has been talking about it for years, but Floyd's death has led to increased drive and action to remove SROs. St. Paul and Minneapolis schools are among those to have terminated contracts with their respective local police department following Floyd's death.