Burlington district seeks public input on school resource officer program

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The Burlington School District wants the community involved in its school safety task force to review and develop a program for placing police officers in city schools.

The district’s School Resource Officer, or SRO, program was first created 25 years ago without much community input. But district wants to hear from more voices.

“We need to hear what the public is telling us, we cannot ignore that,” said Henri Sparks, the district’s director of equity. “We really want to make sure the public has a voice, our students have a voice, and families have a voice, and we need to respect that and value the diversity of voices and diversity of opinions.”

Sparks says he wants to create a nine-member task force school and public officials, as well as students. The goal would be to develop and institute better restorative practices, which Burlington Police Department’s Deputy Chief Jon Murad said primarily seek to change behavior.

“A restorative practice is one that doesn’t necessarily involve issuing a citation to appear in court, or arresting somebody and trying to take them to court,” he said, “but instead involves a stopping of whatever the behavior was that was making people unsafe or condition that led to disorder.”

Murad said SRO’s should be a positive influence in the school. Officers won’t be in uniform or use marked police cruisers.

“The whole opportunity for us as a community is to really look at the M-O-U (Memorandum of Understanding) look at the needs of police in the schools, is there a need, and if not, how does the district first and foremost ensure the safety and well-being of everybody,” said Sparks.

For those interesting in applying for the School Safety Task Force, you can complete your form online or visit  www.bsdvt.org to learn more.

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