Charlottesville discontinuing use of school resource officers

Charlottesville discontinuing use of school resource officers
Charlottesville police (FILE) (Source: WVIR)

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Charlottesville City Schools (CCS) is discontinuing the use of school resource officers (SRO).

CCS, the city, and Charlottesville Police Department made a joint announcement Thursday, June 11. They have all agreed to take SROs out of Charlottesville’s schools. The mutual agreement hinges on a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that put officers there in the first place.

“While our organizations have been in discussion about the MOU for some time, we have long supported and championed the necessity to reconsider our approach to promoting the safety and well being of students and staff,” CPD Chief RaShall Brackney said in Thursday’s release.

The police department says the move was made as a mutual decision.

“This current MOU that we have is just not in the best interest for the police department, in the city schools, and the city of Charlottesville as a whole," Charlotesville Police Public Information Officer Tyler Hawn said. "Dr. Atkins has always kept an open line of communication with Chief Brackney and the city, and we really hope to have some positive discussions moving forward and working towards that new model of public safety in the school system.”

During a protest earlier this month, organizers demanded CCS break the contract with the police department.

“Our public school system is an institution that mimics the prison-industrial complex rather than a safe space where students are able to unlock the jewels within their minds. SRO’s are simply one element that highlights this fact. We must commit to the creation of a paradigm that replaces this current institution that has continuously failed Black children since desegregation,” Mayor Nikuyah Walker said.

Roughly $300,000 in the city’s annual budget goes to the salaries of SROs. That money will now go to support a memorandum that better serves schools.

“This is an opportunity to listen broadly, to look at other approaches, and to craft a model that will serve our schools well. We will seek feedback from our citizens and explore national models,” City Manager Dr. Tarron Richardson said.

The Charlottesville school district discussed the decision during Thursday evening’s school board meeting. Many members of the public who commented support the move.

“I believe that whatever the original point of the program was in the beginning, it has devolved into something that is destructive and something that does not encourage a sense of community," said Robin Francis during public comment.

A series of feedback sessions will be announced with the goals of receiving broad input and developing a new model by August.

06/11/2020 Release from Charlottesville:

(CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA) Charlottesville City Schools, the Charlottesville City School Board, the Charlottesville Police Department, and the City of Charlottesville have mutually agreed to discontinue the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that places School Resources Officers (SROs) in the City’s schools. This is the latest step in a months-long process of updating the existing MOU, a process slowed down by the school closure due to Covid-19.

“While our organizations have been in discussion about the MOU for some time, we have long supported and championed the necessity to reconsider our approach to promoting the safety and wellbeing of students and staff,” noted Chief of Police RaShall Brackney.

“The existing MOU is not in the best interest of students and staff,” noted City manager Dr. Tarron Richardson. “This is an opportunity to listen broadly, to look at other approaches, and to craft a model that will serve our schools well. We will seek feedback from our citizens and explore national models.”

The pre-closure staffing of SROs in the schools posted officers at CHS (2) and Buford, with a roaming officer at the elementary schools. During the school closure, all SROs have been assigned to other patrols.

Financially, the MOU included a $300,000 annual transfer from the schools to the police to cover the expenses associated with the SROs assigned to the schools. These funds would be available to support the new model.

“Throughout my term as mayor, I’ve constantly challenged institutional structures that preserve the status-quo,” noted Mayor Nikuyah Walker. “Our students should be able to attend schools and not believe they will be policed for being children. A few years ago, I worked in a local private school and was amazed that similar disciplinary actions were handled differently than in the public school setting. Were the children or their actions drastically different? No! However, there was an expectation of grace that the parents demanded for their kids at the private school that isn’t afforded to our students who attend public schools.”

Walker continued, “Our public school system is an institution that mimics the prison-industrial complex rather than a safe space where students are able to unlock the jewels within their minds. SRO’s are simply one element that highlights this fact. We must commit to the creation of a paradigm that replaces this current institution that has continuously failed Black children since desegregation.”

“We have heard many different perspectives already on this topic. We’ve received emails from people wanting us to remove police from our schools, and we have talked with students and staff who express appreciation for the SROs they know and trust,” added Superintendent Dr. Rosa Atkins. “Together through conversations with the School Board, staff, students, community, the police, and the City, we will find a new pathway for supporting the needs of our students and staff in the best way possible.”

Following best practices, the schools’ safety and wellness plans lean heavily into programs supporting mental health, intentional community-building, and a positive school climate. Learn more at charlottesvilleschools.org/safety. “Our national search for a new model will reflect these ongoing priorities and values,” noted Jennifer McKeever, chair of the Charlottesville School Board. “We must find a way to not only ensure physical safety, but also to promote mental and emotional well-being.”

This topic is on the agenda at tonight’s virtual School Board meeting at 5pm, available at facebook.com/cvilleschools. During the meeting, a series of feedback sessions will be announced with the goals of receiving broad input and developing a new model by August.

Dr. Atkins continued, “In his press conference this week, Governor Northam addressed national protests focused on policing. We know that nationally, the need for police reform is a big and painful issue. We intend to follow Governor Northam’s advice of listening to wise and informed people as we move forward. Thankfully, the Charlottesville community and our school community are filled with such people.”

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