Des Moines Public Schools are seeking input to decide the future of the School Resource Officer program. Des Moines Black Lives Matter is encouraging people to provide input, saying that School Resource officers are “harmful, not helpful.”
The release from DMPS says that 2020 has “been one of enormous change” because of the emergence of “strong voices, some speaking out for the first time, others for the 1,000th time.”
The district said much of the discussion has been around the issue of race and police work.
“The vibrations were felt strongly in Iowa’s largest, most diverse district where police officers serve as School Resource Officers in the schools,” the press release said.
Some students, parents and staff expressed varied comfort levels with SROs during anti-racist town halls held over the summer.
Because of that, the district is looking at the SRO program.
“We want to be able to hear all voices in this conversation and come back with a recommendation that truly reflects our community’s thoughts,” said Jake Troja, Director of Climate and Culture. “We’re also hearing from law enforcement as part of that community.”
DMPS has one SRO at each high school as well as a supervisor and four officers who rotate between the 10 middle schools.
Tori Rabe, associate principal at Hoover High School, told the board it is disingenuous to portray SROs as a negative presence in schools.
“The times that I have partnered with an SRO on specific student concerns the situation warranted this partnership,” Rabe said. “The reality is these concerns dealt with legal or criminal issues.” Rabe told the Board if the SRO had not been present, she would have had to contact the police department, which would result in some delay of resolution.
“Building administrators cannot be expected to call 9-1-1 and wait for a response when we have thousands of students in our care,” she said.
Superintendent Dr. Thomas Ahart, who drew criticism for mocking Christianity and never had to publicly address his actions (or his wife’s), said he believes they can develop a plan that will be “positively received by our community.”