CHCCS to Form Task Force on Safety and SROs

The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School system (CHCCS) will create a task force to decide how the district wants to address the issue of school safety, and whether School Resource Officers (SROs) and security guards should play a part.

Meeting July 23, the Board of Education voted unanimously to create the task force after hearing staff presentations and receiving a surge of emails from community members with both positive and negative views of keeping SROs in schools.

SROs are members of local police departments who work in the schools based on a contract with the school district, and are funded by the Orange County Board of Commissioners. The contract is currently lapsed and with CHCCS going virtual for the first 9 weeks of the year, the district has some time to consider whether it wants to renew existing arrangement with the police departments. In contrast, security guards are hired by the district as CHCCS employees.

Board members heard from Lee Williams, executive director of CHCCS’ Office of Equity and Inclusion, who presented on the national trend away from SROs and offered case studies of school that reallocated funds for different purposes with success. He offered several positions that could fill the role that SROs currently play, including community intervention workers, restorative justice coordinators, and resource coordinators.

“It’s not that we’re leaving any of the schools without support, but how do we reimagine and redefine these positions?” said Williams.

The discussion also included a presentation from Scarlett Steinert, director of school safety and athletics for the district, who noted the training requirements of SROs and their current role. She shared suggestions that school administrators have made about changes to the SRO position, including involvement on equity committees, advising roles for student clubs, and programs to discourage vaping. Patrick Abele, assistant superintendent for support services, also spoke, emphasizing the role that SROs play in quickly connecting to emergency communications and in response to safety incidents at schools.

However, some board members expressed some skepticism about the effectiveness of SROs in addressing the root issues of student safety.

“We’ve heard a whole lot of pseudoscientists send us emails about how much SROs protect in the schools, and I say pseudoscience because if they could prevent crime, we would have the greatest police department in the world,” said board member Deon Temme.

Speakers also emphasized that the discussion about removing SROs is not targeted at individual officers, but about the system as a whole.

“We’ve gotten a lot of shoutouts talking about two or three specific SROs, and them saying how fantastic an individual they are or how well they do it. But unfortunately, we’re not hiring individuals – we’re hiring police officers to come into the schools, and if you’re expecting every police officer to be as good as the best examples we have, that’s a tough thing to do,” said board member Ashton Powell.

As to who will make up the task force, the board left the question of members for later, but noted the need to include stakeholders in the process. When operational, the task force will take a broader look at the existing structure, and what needs to be done to enhance student safety, whether that be keeping SROs in schools, modifying their role, or removing them and replacing them with new positions. Board members also discussed their desire to go beyond the current frame of school safety.

“When we think about safety, I am going to ask us to think about a distinction between safety and security,” said board member Rani Dasi. “In my mind, safety is supported by folks having access to resources.”


Community Guidelines

By using this site, you agree to our community guidelines. Inappropriate or disruptive behavior will result in moderation or eviction.


Content license

By contributing to OrangePolitics, you agree to license your contributions under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.

Creative Commons License

Zircon - This is a contributing Drupal Theme
Design by WeebPal.