RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - After a 90-minute student-led virtual town hall discussing the need for student resource officers in Richmond Public Schools Superintendent announced that he would recommend to the school board that they remove all SRO’s from schools and replace them with mental health professionals Tuesday afternoon.
“Based on this conversation I will be recommending to the school board that we remove SRO’s from our schools and ask the city councils to reallocate those funds to mental health professionals in our schools,” said Kamras.
Kamras said he was deeply moved by the testimonials of students who were participated in the town hall about their experiences dealing with police in schools and their desire to get them out of the classroom, but already his announcement is facing push back.
Former SRO and President of Richmond United for Law Enforcement Cheryl Nici-O’Connell says that call is too premature to make.
“You are doing such a disservice to the students, the teachers, as well as to the community if you remove those safety resources. Safety is everybody’s business,” said Nici-O’Connell.
Cheryl says the job of a safety officer is less about enforcing the law and more about establishing positive connections with youth.
“They are there as a safety measure, the students have a very special relationship with the safety resource officers,” said Nici-O’Connell. “They are that extra set of eyes and ears, but they are also that person that the students can go to.”
But the negative interactions with SRO’s expressed by students during Thursday’s virtual town hall is something Kamras says is time to address directly.
“Talk is cheap and we need action so that is what I will be advocating for,” said Kamras. “Of course, RPS is racists every school system in America is; our country was founded on racism and it infects every institution in the nation, and I see as see it as my job, as well as everybody else to change that.”
Kamras expressed to the dozen students on the call that he believed that all school systems across the country, including RPS, have been rooted in racism for decades, and that the measure he is recommending is the first step in addressing those issues.
“This is about whether you need a gun or a badge to do that work or not, and it’s clear from what you students have said that you don’t,” said Kamras. “Either we listen to the students or we don’t. I said we were going to hear from you and you represent the different schools and have had a lot of different experiences, and I’m going to listen to you.”
Cheryl says the recommendation is one that could have an unforeseen consequence and requires more community input.
“Whether those consequences are good or whether they are negative - this community will hold you responsible for the decision you make so make a well-informed decision,” said Nici-O’Connell.
The Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police is also weighed in on Kamras’s recommendations saying in a statement:
“The VACP cautions schools to consider the safety role that school resource officers play in the schools. The absence of SROs dramatically reduces response time to school incidents and eliminates the ability of students to interact positively with police officers.”
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