A School Resources Officer will be hired again to staff Palm Springs High School and Desert Learning Academy after Palm Springs City Council voted 4-1 on Thursday to approve a new contract for the remainder of the school year and fund partly the police station with about $ 100,000 in city money.
Board members Dennis Woods, Geoff Kors, Christy Holstege and Lisa Middleton voted to approve the one-year deal while Grace Garner voted against.
The vote came two days after the Palm Springs Unified School District School Board voted unanimously to approve contracts for four local law enforcement agencies to supply police officers to district high schools.
The district is seeking to restore police officers to high schools in four jurisdictions – Palm Springs, Desert Hot Springs, Cathedral City and Rancho Mirage.
However, the Palm Springs contract will be different from the one approved by the school district after the board votes to change it.
The school district agreed to partially fund four School Resource Officer contracts with $ 400,000 from the Local Control and Accountability Plan – a fund designed to support services to low-income English students and young students in Foster home. Some critics questioned whether it was appropriate to use PACL funds for policing.
In addition to the $ 400,000 in CASL funds used for the four officers, the district also planned to spend approximately $ 250,000 in COVID-19 emergency relief funds to fund its school policing program.
But the Palm Springs City Council voted to pass an amendment that says the city will subsidize with city funds the portion of the contract for the Palm Springs SRO that was originally to be paid with CASL funds.
The amount that was to be funded with CASL money would be roughly equivalent to $ 100,000 of the $ 182,000 salary the district had originally agreed to pay for the salary of the Palm Springs police officer.
The board also voted to add as a condition of approval that CASL funds originally intended to fund the Palm Springs manager not be used to fund school resource managers at other schools outside of Palm Springs. Instead, the board insisted that the money be used for other purposes as part of the PALC designed to improve the academic performance of students with high needs.
These conditions will now, in turn, need to be approved by the school district. However, PSUSD Superintendent Mike has expressed support for moving in this direction.
“This is how I would handle the decision if that’s what you decide,” Swize said of using the funds for non-SRO purposes.
“I have ethical concerns”
The council decided to provide municipal funds to help subsidize the post to bring back to schools a police officer, who several council members say plays an important role in school safety without using CASL funds for the school. pay, which many felt was an inappropriate use of these funds.
Swize told the PSUSD board meeting on Tuesday that the district has reviewed whether the use of CASL funds for school resource managers was appropriate. Prior to this school year, the district CASL budget for school resource officers was reduced from $ 715,000 to its current amount of $ 400,000.
“I have ethical concerns about accepting CASL dollars which are intended for a police officer in our department instead of going to local children in need, which he is supposed to do,” Mayor Christy said. Holstege earlier in the discussion.
However, several council members also expressed reservations about replacing CASL funding with city money, although all but one ultimately voted in favor of the proposal.
“I’m having a little trouble dictating how the school district is going to spend its money,” said Councilor Dennis Woods. “We have no idea how they’re going to spend the $ 100,000 in CASL money, they haven’t explained it to us at all … it becomes very risky to try to do that, but I will support the motion to ensure we have another officer at the school. “
During the meeting, the board also considered a presentation from Swize on how the district is reinventing the role of resource officers in schools.
The role and future of school resource officer programs has come under scrutiny both in Palm Springs and across the country since the summer of unrest following the murder of George Floyd with several large urban school districts canceling their ORS contracts.
This summer, the Palm Springs Unified School District decided that the school year would begin without officers in high schools because the district reviewed and reworked its safety program amid questions about its effectiveness.
The board was originally scheduled to approve the contract as part of the consent agenda – a generally running set of items that are voted on collectively without discussion – at its September 30 meeting.
However, the item was removed from the consent agenda and considered separately after Kors raised concerns that certain aspects of the contract merited discussion regarding the overhaul of the district’s school safety program.
The board ultimately decided to reconsider the matter at Thursday’s meeting so it could hear a presentation from the school district and more information from the police department on the responsibilities and value of a school resource officer.
Amendments to the contract
Swize said one of the big changes will involve the development of support teams in each of the district’s high schools that will focus on helping struggling students. He said school resource officers will be part of those teams, which will also include social workers, which the district is hiring for the first time, and other support staff.
The district contract describes 14 basic responsibilities for the officer. These responsibilities include the more traditional law enforcement role of protecting students, staff and the public from threats.
However, they also encompass several other responsibilities, such as connecting with school and community social workers “to understand when and how problems at home can motivate a student’s disruptive behavior in order to work with the student. school staff to ensure effective and favorable responses “.
One thing the contract specifically prohibits school resource officers from getting involved in is enforcing school codes of conduct and engaging in school discipline. Instead, the contract states that officers are to refer school discipline issues to the appropriate administrative team member.
The senior district security official had previously expressed concern that school resource officers were too often called upon to discipline students for school-level offenses rather than criminal offenses.
As the council approved a new contract, several members said they will want the district to provide them with information on how things are going with the redefined role of resource officers as they consider renewing the contract. next year.
You can contact Paul on Twitter at @albaniburgiop and by email at [email protected]