Community weighs in on new proposed agreement for police officers in schools

NOW: Community weighs in on new proposed agreement for police officers in schools

SOUTH BEND, Ind. --- The city of South Bend and the South Bend Community School Corporation drafted a new agreement for police officers in school, after community activists had been calling for their removal for months.

The new agreement does not remove officers from school buildings, but makes changed to the way they are trained.

The city’s Community Action Group held its second and final meeting Tuesday night on the school resource program, seeking public feedback about the proposed agreement that was updated after nearly a decade.

But despite the updates, some students and activists who talked at Tuesday’s meeting still echoed similar sentiments from months ago, getting police out of schools all together.

“The reason I came out tonight was because I do not agree with the school system and the SRO’s they have placed in our schools to keep us safe as children,” said Kaleb Craft, a Junior at Clay High School who’s been present at several city and activist run discussions about school resource officers.

“I don’t think it’s productive or healthy to have armed guards in schools that have the power to taze children. My belief is we should not have an MOU, we should not have police in schools,” added local community activist, Regina Williams-Preston.

Students, community members, and activists like Williams-Preston have said for months that armed police officers in schools can intimidate and increase arrests for black and brown students.

The criticism pushing the city of South bend and the school corporation to update the current memorandum of understanding put in place back in 2012, that allows cops in schools, despite recent calls for alternative methods.

“The money that we spend, any money that we spend and then much more needs to be allocated to resources that provide proactive support to kids. Of course, counselors and social workers but we also need to go beyond that. We need to begin to instill supports and skills in students themselves.”

In addition to 40 hours of state required school resource officer training the new agreement would require more specific training, for things like social media threats and participation in the district's Shared Rights and Responsibilities Policy.

Officers would also need cultural competency, implicit bias, and restorative justice training, while keeping safety the number one priority.

“Our priority number one is to help anybody specifically students in the schools when we have SRO’s in them even if it’s not SRO’s, police officers in the schools,” explained South Bend Police Chief Scott Ruszkowski.

“The MOU does not take resource officers out of school. It solidifies the fact that student safety is our top priority and this clarifies the relationship between the police department and the schools and who manages what in terms of school resource officers,” added South Bend Community School Corporation Superintendent Dr. Todd Cummings.

Some community members at Tuesday’s meeting who weren’t calling for officers to be completely removed from schools still believed the new measures in the proposed MOU didn’t go far enough.

“We need a third voice, and that voice should be community members and parents who are overseeing the issues that the SRO’s that come into the schools every day,” added a community member who spoke up during Tuesday’s meeting.

South Bend Superintendent Dr. Cummings said the proposed draft is still being tweaked based on feedback, but they plan to get it to the school board by December 6th.

If passed, the new MOU could go into effect by August of 2022 and would renew every school year, unless stated otherwise the school school district or the city.

There are four SRO officers that are in various South Bend middle and high schools right now, but officials said that could change depending on needs and wishes of different schools.

You can view the proposed MOU below.

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