SACRAMENTO, Calif. —
The Sacramento City Unified School District's board approved a new safety plan for the upcoming school year, which includes a reduction in the number of school resource officers for the district and takes the SROs off campus.
The $1.4 million proposal, called Reimagine School Safety, aims to increase training, specifically in the area of implicit bias, provide greater mental health support and reduce the number of school resource officers to perhaps three.
“The thought of losing SROs is keeping me up at night,” said Tony Perez, a principal in the district. “For the mental health aspect, for the ability to have their assistance in a 51-50 situation, minutes are important. If I have to wait on a regular dispatch call, I can’t control that situation. That’s out of my scope.”
Others said police don’t belong in schools.
“I strongly believe that cops do not belong in our schools nor should school districts use educational funds to them,” said Laura Vu, a community member. “The majority of students in our district are students of color, many who come from families and communities with historical or current trauma of law enforcement’s institutional racism.”
The school resource officers would be moved off school sites and would be available to respond to incidents when called upon.
"What we've heard from students and also from parents is that they don't necessarily feel safer having police officers," said Tere Flores, with Sacramento Area Congregations Together, who opposes any allocation of funding for student resource officers.
Most recently, the district had a total of eight school resource officers and one sergeant to cover 75 schools. Of the eight, six were assigned to schools. The two other officers and the sergeant roved between campuses, the Sacramento Police Department said.
"For us, we believe that, practically speaking, we don't really see the difference between having three SROs that would be off-site that will be available to be called versus, you know, having the police force that is currently already serving the city," she said.
Flores said members of the community with whom she works prefer funding for more mental health professionals, counselors and social workers.
"We find that a lot of these incidents that end up escalating and boiling up usually could have been avoided if there were more resources that the students could access," she said.
Moreover, the district lacks data to support the notion that officers have a positive impact on the schools, she said. Flores said she requested data from the school a year ago and still has yet to receive it.
"Who are the students that are being, you know, detained or that are having encounters with these SROs? And what's the result of them?" she said she wanted to know.
There are others, however, including teachers, who see the benefits of school resource officers.
"I'm in agreement that we need a comprehensive approach to working with students and school safety, which includes mental health, which includes staff trainings, all the things that are proposed in the current outline, but I do not think we need to get rid of the one thing that we currently have that is working," said Julie Snider, an environmental science teacher at Rosemont High School.
Snider said the officer assigned to her school provides more than a law enforcement presence. She said he's a resource for parents, too.
"He works at after-school events, school activities, football games and his presence alone has deescalated situations with students, with people that are fans and prevented further action from taking place," she said.
Additionally, with Rosemont High School located in the county, Snider worries how long it might take police to respond to a serious incident if one arose.
In her opinion, the district should be moving in the opposite direction and adding more officers.
The new plan also leads to the hiring of a director of school safety and a centralized police sergeant.
Superintendent Jorge Aguilar said he plans to call the Sacramento Police Department on Friday to discuss the best way to implement the new plan before the start of the school year.