Will the Wake County school board require changes in the way school resource officers operate in order for them to continue to patrol the district's high schools and middle schools?
The school board will vote today on these contracts with Raleigh and Cary to provide school resource officers for the 2012-13 school year. The vote comes amid lobbying efforts by several advocacy organizations to get the school system to cut back on the role of SROs, from what they're armed with to what interaction they can have with students on discipline issues.
In an email Monday to school board members, Jason Langberg of Advocates for Children Services wrote that approving the contracts "without more careful consideration of the >issue of SROs in WCPSS would be irresponsible, undemocratic, and arguably, a violation of multiple Board policies."
As part of the email, Langberg enclosed this December white paper from Advocates for Children's Services, the Great Schools in Wake Coalition and the YWCA of the Greater Triangle. The paper recommended several changes Wake should make to the SRO program, including:
* Prohibit SROs from carrying TASERs and to limit their use of pepper spray as a last resort for incidents that cannot be controlled by any other, less harmful, means.
* Require that before searching a student or a student's possessions, SROs have probable cause to believe that a student has committed or is attempting to commit a delinquent or criminal offense and have the principal's express permission. Additionally, Wake should exclude the results of illegal searches from disciplinary proceedings.
* Make it clear that SROS may only intervene in serious criminal issues that cause a major threat to safety, not in minor delinquent acts or incidents that do not involve delinquent activity.
* Restrict when an SRO can refer a student to court, including prohibitions on complaints for minor offenses and offenses that are manifestations of students' disabilities.
* Require involvement of WCPSS staff, students and parents in the selection of SROs.
Langberg included several December letters from groups supporting the white paper:
* YWCA of the Greater Triangle letter
* ACLU of North Carolina letter
* Advancement Project letter
* Coalition of Concerned Citizens for African American Children letter
* Duke Children's Law Clinic letter
* Great Schools in Wake letter
* Letter from attorney Mark Trustin
* N.C. Justice Center letter
* N.C. Juvenile Defender letter
* Letter from UNC Law School Professor Barbara Fedders
Langberg had gotten the school board last year to request Superintendent Tony Tata to review the SRO program. Tata's review praised the program. Langberg has criticized it as not being a real review.
Click here to view the email sent to board members on Monday. Corrected post to say letter from N.C. Juvenile Defender.
The school board voted 5-4 to table the Cary SRO contract. it went along party lines with the Democrats voting yes and the Republicans voting against tabling.
The board also voted to table the Raleigh SRO contract.