Wake County school board members let it be known tonight that they're concerned about how Raleigh police responded to last month's water-balloon prank at Enloe High School that resulted in the arrests of seven students.
Democratic and Republican board members said the police response showed the need to revisit the district's discipline and law enforcement policies. The discussion came up as board members agreed to renew contracts for school resource officers in high schools in Raleigh and Cary for the 2013-14 school year.
“I too like everyone else was saddened and upset when we saw the Enloe incident, and the tapes are extremely disturbing for us to watch,” said school board member Tom Benton.
While Benton said that school resource officers are highly trained to deal with students, he said things can break down when large numbers of other officers are called to a school.
“I’m glad to hear that we’re all using this incident to take a real close look at where we are with this and see how we can make it better," Benton said.
Benton said they need to make sure that officers have training in how to de-escalate things "and not throw fuel in the fire."
Several students and parents during public comments had raised concerns about how school resource officers have interacted with students, particularly from the minority community.
School board member Jim Martin said he can relate to those parents.
“I am particularly sensitive to parent comments who note about interactions with an SRO," Martin said. "Several years ago I was one of those parents. I was working with a number of parents who were actually addressing, not single-subject advancement but something pretty close to that kind of an issue.
I was one of the spokespeople for that group and the school administration didn’t particularly want to deal with the situation as it arised and I was threatened that I better be careful or I would be arrested for trespassing. So I’m sensitive to that issue.
I was a de-escalating force. The SRO was an escalating force. So when I hear the stories, I know there’s reality to this, and I happen to be white.”
Based on student due process hearings where law enforcement has been involved, Martin said there have been times where he's questioned what happened.
Martin said that the school district needs to do do more to document police response in schools. He also said they need to review their draft arrest and warrants policy and possibly develop an overall law enforcement policy.
“I as a school board member, I as a parent, I as a citizen need to know that law enforcement will de-escalate and not escalate a conflict," Martin said. "And we have had situations that we have witnessed where it has gone the other way around.”
The latter remarks drew applause from the crowd.
School board member Deborah Prickett thanked Martin for making his remarks. It was Prickett's request to move the SRO contracts from the consent agenda to the action agenda that led to the discussion.