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Emails show staff support SROs, while school administration pushed for more changes at high school level

Published: Oct. 12, 2021 at 8:08 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Emails, which KCRG-TV9′s i9 Investigative Team received through a public record request, show school staff showing its support for school resource officers remaining in schools across the Cedar Rapids Community School District.

The emails also show that district administration continued to push changes to the program to high school principals.

The Cedar Rapids Community School District was looking to change its school resource officer program, which allows police officers to be present in some schools, since June after a report found Black students in the district were six times likelier to have a complaint. The district’s board of education unanimously approved a number of new changes in September. The city council for the city of Cedar Rapids unanimously approved the new contract Tuesday afternoon.

Those changes include removing the officers specifically assigned to Roosevelt and McKinley Middle Schools, which were the only two middle schools with officers assigned. Instead, two officers will float between all the middle and high schools across the district. Our KCRG-TV9 i9 Investigative Team found in September the district removed officers from the two middle schools without telling the public.

Push for more changes to SROs from district administration at the high school level

Emails show school district leaders were seeking out feedback from building principals since at least June 2. Deputy Superintendent Nicole Kooiker, who has led the movement to change the program, said in an August email to Superintendent Noreen Bush that she was trying to push thinking in conversations with building principals.

Kooiker wrote middle school principals were supportive of changes to the program, but high school principals were “not in the same mental space around restorative practices at their point in their journey,”

“They have been open and honest in their conversations and we feel really good about the structures and supports we are putting in pace for the High School’s for this school year,” Kooiker wrote. “We also have had really good conversations with them about current practices and shifting from the punitive mindset.”

Kooiker wrote the building principals were coming along with more knowledge. She said she was confident the district would see a shift in staff responses to student behavior. Kooiker described the shift as logic versus punishment.

i9 did ask the district if it wants SROs to leave the high school. A written joint statement from Nicole Kooiker and Noreen Bush didn’t answer the question directly.

“The secondary schools that continue to host full-time SROs are supportive of the current state of the SRO program,” the statement said. “As CRCSD has reviewed input and feedback from stakeholders and continues to collaborate with Districts leaders, staff and CRPD, we continue to grow and develop the next steps for the SRO program.”

The school board received a number of different emails from staff members supporting the program, which puts police officers in schools. Multiple staff members talked about an SRO’s ability to build relationships with students, which has been a priority of the program to the Cedar Rapids Police Department.

Emails from the police department show the department refused to recommend a revised contract removing school resource officers from middle schools. Cory McGarvey, who is a lieutenant for the Cedar Rapids Police Department, wrote to the district in August about the department’s belief in the program making schools safer. He also wrote it allows officers to build relationships with students.

“The relationships that have been built and will continue to be built that break down barriers and instill trust between students and officers will be negatively impacted,” McGarvey said. “Intervention by SRO’s has prevented both violent and illegal activities, or provided appropriate referrals for youth in need of assistance who were either victimized or had a legal concern.”

The Cedar Rapids Police Department did recommend the city council approve the revised contract council voted on Tuesday. It’s set to expire on June 30, 2022. Brent Long, who is a captain in the Cedar Rapids Police Department, told the city council on Tuesday he anticipates starting talking about the next contract with the district before this one ends.

“We’re going to currently take all the information we are gathering,” Long said. “We’re going to keep evaluating any changes that we have to adapt to.”

90% of arrests came from a school with an SRO

School data provided to school board members shows that out of 366 arrests, 90% of arrests came from a school with a School Resource Officer. The data shows the most arrests come from High Schools in the district. However, the two middle schools with resource officers had 4 total arrests.

Data from the school shows middle schools with no school resource officers, like Wilson Middle School, had more arrests than schools with resource officers. Scot Reisinger, who is a school board member for the district wrote in an email he believes these numbers confirm school resource officers were placed in Roosevelt and McKinley Middle Schools for racial reasons.

“However, for me, this data confirms the likelihood that the current middle schools which house SROs were selected for primarily demographic reasons (ie a larger number of black and brown students).”

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