Cedar Rapids Community School Board unanimously approves revised SRO agreement

Published: Sep. 27, 2021 at 3:17 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - A revised version of the School Resource Officer Program agreement between the Cedar Rapids Community School District and the city of Cedar Rapids was unanimously approved by the school board during Monday’s school board meeting.

The amended agreement on the agenda can be viewed in full here.

The proposed changes come after data showed Black students were disproportionately arrested. Possible recommendations have been discussed by parents, the district, and Cedar Rapids Police at board meetings over the last several months.

“This is just, in my two years that I’ve been on the board, really feels like one of the most difficult decisions that’s been put in front of us,” David Tominsky, one of the board’s members, said.

Several board members spoke about the numerous data presented at past board meetings and thanked students for vocalizing concerns about the program.

“I feel we should treat this as a crisis moment for students. We have the data for the disparate arrests, we have the data over students who are feeling unsafe, and that’s something, like I said, we shouldn’t have,” Dexter Merschbrock, another board member, said.

The agreement states Jefferson High School, Kennedy High School, Washington High School, Polk Alternative Education Center, and Metro High School will each be assigned a school resource officer. No officers would be specifically assigned to McKinley or Roosevelt Middle Schools, which was a recommendation raised at previous school board meetings. Anticipating this change, the district removed SRO’s from those two middle schools at the beginning of the school year.

However, the agreement has two CRPD officers serving as non-school-specific SROs for the 2021-22 school year, who would serve CRCSD elementary and middle schools as needed.

The agreement puts the officers in “soft uniforms” when on duty, with exceptions for special events when the SRO would be in a typical uniform. The SRO would also carry a regulation sidearm, one additional magazine, and one set of handcuffs, which the agreement states are in accordance with police department guidelines.

The school district holds responsibility for disciplining students, according to the agreement, not involving SROs unless the principal believes an incident is breaking the law. Then, the principal would work with the SRO to figure out if law enforcement action is needed.

The agreement lists the duties of the SROs, which include leading “lockdown” drills, training for staff and faculty, and encouraging individual and small group discussions with the students to establish rapport. They would also be familiar with community organizations like mental health clinics, drug treatment centers, and be able to be a resource for students and their families, and make referrals to such organizations.

The cost of the program is split 50/50 between the district and the city. Each of the seven positions is calculated to cost $138,697, for a total of $970,879 for the fiscal year of 2022.

The agreement also has to be signed by the city of Cedar Rapids, and would be in effect until June 30, 2022.

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