The Burlington School District is scaling back its school resource officer program.
School board members approved changes Tuesday night that would eliminate one of the district’s two SRO’s. The remaining officer will also no longer be stationed on school grounds.
“One of the things we really wanted to do was not ‘throw the baby out with the bathwater’ if you will,” said Sparks, Burlington Schools’ District. “But to really strike an equal balance.”
Last July, Sparks was tasked with forming and leading a task force to re-examine the role of school resource officers in the district. He says the 9 members– made up of students, parents, city counselors, and community members spent months interviewing SRO’s on their daily duties, conducting surveys and weekly meetings. Tuesday, they shared their findings in a 20 page report.
“About 5% of the work they did in the schools was actual police work,” Sparks said. “The rest of that was really building relationships with students and being extra support to administrators and teachers.”
The report makes 10 recommendations for BSD centered around restorative justice. This includes removing an SRO entirely from the district’s equation. The plan is for the remaining officer to hail from 1 North Ave, Burlington Police headquarters.
“Students have told us they don’t feel comfortable with police officers in the building,” said Superintendent Tom Flanagan. “They don’t feel comfortable with armed police officers inside the building.”
Flanagan says the district’s SRO will make scheduled visits across the schools and only be on hand for drills or other safety projects. He says the work supports a national conversation about changing policing in schools.
“The work that we really want to shift to is the work of restoration and providing emotional and social support and mental health and well being,” Flanagan said.