Cedar Rapids Schools seeks resource officer agreement changes

Published: Sep. 13, 2021 at 11:23 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - The Cedar Rapids Community School district wants to change its contract with the Cedar Rapids Police Department about putting armed officers in schools.

The district already pulled the School Resource Officers from McKinley and Roosevelt Middle Schools. The school board hasn’t yet made a decision, but the contract negotiations are being informed by 14 recommendations from the school district’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion group.

Superintendent Noreen Bush said the district is in the final year of a multi-year contract with the police department, but they don’t want to wait until the end of this school year to make changes, so the contract amendment conversation is happening now.

The biggest sticking point in the contract discussions is what to do with the two SROs already removed from McKinley and Roosevelt. Board members asked about adding district counselors, but those counselors cannot provide therapy, which would require hiring or bringing in licensed therapists. The district said it is considering adding social workers to schools, which would be a first.

“Because we are in a current contract, that’s a multi-year contract, we are recommending an amendment to that current contract based on the input we’ve had from the community and from our students and from all of you. The majority vote, which will come to the board with an amendment contract at our next board meeting, would approve or not approve an amended contract,” Bush said.

Data that showed Black students are more likely to have interactions with SROs than White students, even though they don’t misbehave more, sparked changes between the district and police department. A district survey also found 24 percent of Black students said the SRO’s made them feel unsafe. The police chief acknowledged the disparity, but said many of the arrests were because the victim wanted charges filed.

Activists against the program were able to share their concerns with the board members.

“If we can’t get rid of them, then I definitely want to compromise, having guns in schools is something that I should feel non-negotiable. I feel like we shouldn’t have their period like students shouldn’t feel policed and in a place where it’s supposed to be safe and warming it makes no sense too I don’t know patrol children all day long it doesn’t make any sense to me,” Danny Levy, a Washington High School senior, said.

Once the district decides on a contract, the city of Cedar Rapids would then need to approve it. The district will likely vote on the contract changes at its September 27 meeting.

Cedar Rapids Police released a statement that said it supports School Resource Officers and the current contract between the school district and the city. It also asserted that officers in schools build positive relationships and help support a safe, welcoming learning environment.

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