Proposals to reduce funding levels for school resource officers (SRO) at West Contra Costa Unified schools failed to gain traction at Wednesday’s Board of Education meeting.
A majority of the five board members — Mister Phillips, Madeline Kronenberg and Liz Block — expressed a desire during the meeting to maintain current staffing and funding levels for the program that places sworn police officers at schools.
On Thursday, Phillips took to social media to praise the development.
“While there are many competing demands on our school district’s limited budget, I believe the safety of our students and staff must be our first priority,” he said.
WCCUSD began its review of the SRO program, which has existed since the district disbanded its own police department in 2006, after the Board of Education last year voted to eliminate “willful defiance” as a reason to suspend and expel a student. That vote led to the passage of a Positive School Climate resolution that directed more resources toward holistic approaches to deal with troubled students.
To achieve that, the district recommended proposals to reduce funding for the $2.4 million contract that pays for 13 SROs at six schools, including 6 at Richmond schools. The recommendations suggested, in part, to reduce funding for the program by 50-percent and possibly requesting that cities pay the other 50-percent in order to maintain SRO staffing. The proposals recommended using the savings to fund “restorative justice coordinators” as well as train teachers and staff on how to handle troubled students.
Supporters of the SRO program, which include elected officials in participating cities including San Pablo and El Cerrito, say on-campus officers keep school safe, act as mentors to students and build bonds between police and youth.
Opponents, including some students, administrators and youth advocacy groups, say on-campus police disrupt rather than assist in promoting safety and academic achievement. Board member Tom Panas expressed concern for undocumented immigrants and students coming out of juvenile hall having to encounter police officers on campuses.
Other school districts statewide using SROs don’t have to pay 100-percent of the cost for the program, according to WCCUSD report. However, several state school districts, including Oakland’s, still have their own police departments and pay 100-percent for them.