Students feel safer with fewer arrests after School Resource Officer changes in Cedar Rapids Schools
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - New data shows a dramatic decline in the number of students arrested while students report feeling safer after Cedar Rapids Schools made changes to its School Resource Officer program.
Those changes last fall drew questions and concerns, including from Cedar Rapids Police, as the district removed dedicated officers from Middle Schools before the new agreement was in place. Those officers instead served as “floaters”, responding to Elementary and Middle Schools as needed. The amended agreement also had officers wear “soft” uniforms and shifted job duties away from disciplinary actions. Right now the district has 5 dedicated SROs, one in each of the four high schools and Polk Alternative Education Center, and two floater SROs.
Data the Cedar Rapids School Board will review Monday shows the move is having the desired impact. Charts show arrests of students dropped dramatically at the high school level and significantly at the Middle School level, where data from 2019-20 school year is skewed because of the Pandemic. Arrests particularly of Black students fell below that of White students at the high school level. In 2018-19 data, the last pre-pandemic year, arrests of Black students far outpaced those of their White peers, despite Cedar Rapids being a majority White student body. That arrest disparity was a primary factor in making changes to the SRO program.
At the same time, surveys showed students felt safer because of an SRO this past school year compared to the previous one. 90% of High School Students responded feeling Somewhat or Very Safe because of an SRO in the building last school year. That’s up from 88% the year before with the percent feeling very safe rose from 30% to 49%. More students also reported feeling very comfortable around an SRO, going from 23% to 45%. And a greater percentage of students, 45% versus 22%, reported having very positive interactions with the SRO. Asked whether the SRO serves as a strong role model in school, 49% Strongly Agreed compared to 23% the year before the changes.
Staff and family surveys showed more than 90% felt safe and positive about the SRO program.
The district will review a contract for next school year Monday that includes clarifications and the possibility of dropping the two floater SROs or moving them to work out of the Police Department.
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