After some controversy over having police in St. Paul schools, the district has clarified the duties of school resource officers so they'll be more visible to students.
The school board Tuesday night approved the new agreement with the St. Paul Police Department for the upcoming school year, which begins Sept. 6.
The contract comes after video surfaced in May of a white officer forcefully arresting a black student at St. Paul's Central High School, sparking student protests and outcry from community members.
The district decided to get input from students, staff, community stakeholders, police and community workgroups to come up with the contract, a news release says. And Steve Marchese, a member of the school board, told the Star Tribune he thinks doing so strengthened their agreement with the police department.
"We've come a long ways. It's not perfect, but it's leaps and bounds from where we started years ago. And it's leaps and bounds from where we started even in April," Jackie Turner, St. Paul schools' chief engagement officer, told MPR News. "I think everyone can see themselves in this contract — the students, the police, the principals."
SROs will be more visible – and have more training
The school board laid out the responsibilities for its nine school resource officers (SROs). Among them:
- SROs won't deal with student discipline – they're there to deal with criminal behavior. And the administration will consult the student handbook on whether or not to involve an SRO in a student matter.
- If an SRO "must have hands on engagement with a student" a school administrator should be present whenever possible – this includes arrests.
- Officers will undergo at least 16 hours of training in racial equity, non-violent crisis intervention and de-escalation, and youth mental health first aid.
- SROs will meet monthly with staff and students, as well as report monthly on interactions they have with students.
- Officers should be more visible and promote positive interactions with students. They'll be involved in opening week activities so students can get to know them. Students will also get to submit interview questions for potential officers.
- SROs will wear different uniforms – a blue collared shirt – that'll distinguish them from school security guards and make them seem less intimidating.
The City of St. Paul and St. Paul Public Schools will share the cost of the $984,499 contract, with the school district paying $884,499, according to the news release.