Rochester School Board votes to look into alternative options to a school resource officer

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(ABC 6 News) – The Rochester School Board voted Tuesday night to consider other alternative approaches to school safety, rather than having school resource officers. This, after the board voted to add a sixth SRO to the district in January.

Members of the school board as well as Rochester Supt. Kent Pekel engaged in a lengthy discussion at the meeting, many members saying they don’t feel like they have enough information about any alternatives as opposed to having an officer in the building.

Supt. Pekel pointed out that the board has spent exponentially more time discussion school resource officers than they have spent on literacy or any other academic subject.

Still, members voted 6-1 to have Supt. Pekel come back to the board with more information on a different way of ensuring students safety.

“This is an issue and a topic that I wish we didn’t need to dedicate time to. I wish that I did not believe we need police officers in our schools, I have reluctantly concluded that we do, and so my recommendation to you is to renew this contract,” Supt. Pekel.

One alternative could be training an in-house employee to handle student safety.

Another, is utilizing the police department’s resources without having an actual officer in the school.

But, there’s still a lot of discussion about what all of that means, which is why many board members are hoping this final push for information will bring 100% confidence with the best outcome for students and the district.

Some, however expressed that they don’t think officers are a good option.

“They can’t even articulate and take ownership, not as a person but as a system, that systemic racism exists and it affects our students, is so disappointing to me,” Dr. Jessica Garcia, the treasurer for the Rochester School Board, said.

Another key point brought up was that with SRO contracts, the cost is split 50/50 with the school and the Rochester Police Department.

If the district decides to go a different way, that price will fall entirely on the schools.

No permanent decision on the future of the contracts has been decided yet, but members are hoping this will make them better prepared for that May decision.