What We Know About Ames School Resource Officers
School resource officers are working in school buildings in Ames this year, despite an announcement last spring that officers would be stationed at the district central office and only work in school buildings as needed.
Meanwhile, the district continues to use a study group to work on developing a recommendation on what the future of school resource officer use in Ames should look like beyond the current school year – despite plans to issue a recommendation before the start of the school year. .
Back in April, then-Ames Superintendent Jenny Risner said a decision regarding the future of the district’s resource officers for the 2022-2023 school year and beyond needed to be made. by January 1, 2022 – when notice is due for the contract between the district and the city of Ames.
Risner said there was no problem with the Ames Police Department or district resource officers, but “It’s not about the people. It’s about looking at the research and knowing how we align everything we do in this district with our purpose and priorities. “
Within the district, she said, “we don’t use ORS consistently, in the same way,” and some of the things resource officers were doing – checking toilets or watching lunch times – were most likely things school staff could do instead.
Data collected by district administrators and resource officers themselves showed disproportionate interactions between officers and black or African American students, students who are entitled to free or discounted meals, students in English and homeless students who far exceed the portion of the student body that these groups represent.
While positive or negative value judgments on these interactions have not been assigned, these discrepancies and other research on the criminalization of student behavior by ORS led the district to announce in April that officers “would be on duty. position outside the district office and would work in our buildings as needed “during the current school year.
When did the district review this decision?
Risner resigned in May and Acting Superintendent Paula Vincent runs Ames Schools while a permanent successor is found.
Vincent, who was assigned the role on June 21 and officially began taking on the role on July 1, told the Ames Tribune in early July that she had only just learned about the resource officers’ plan. district and that she did not yet know enough to have an opinion on it.
School started in Ames during the last full week of August and on September 13 Angela Shaw told the school board on behalf of the Ames School and Youth Action Team – a group that seeks to address racial and ethnic disparities in Ames schools – that it was concerned about the district’s continued use of ORS in its buildings, although there was no recommendation from the group study on their future.
Past thoughts of local activists on SROs:Some Ames activists want immediate action on SROs, but the district is not yet finished reviewing the issue.
The following week, Eric Smidt, the district spokesperson, confirmed to the Tribune that two ORS had been assigned to buildings in the district this year, “mainly at Ames High School and Ames College”.
Smidt added, “Student discipline is handled by the school administration, not by school resource officers.”
The following week, highlighting the continued presence of officers in schools, an ORS was the first to respond to information from Ames Middle School about a student who allegedly damaged two classrooms and smashed several windows, including two in the exterior of the building.
The SRO requested the reinforcement of patrol officers, who helped subdue and detain the student, Cmdr of the Ames Police Department. Jason Tuttle said at the time.
Jeff Hawkins, the deputy district superintendent, told the Tribune that the incident was unusual in what was otherwise “a very typical start” to the school year at the college. Officials, however, acknowledged that the fighting at Ames High School was a concern this year.
On September 30, Vincent told the Tribune that a change in the previous announcement regarding the use of SROs this year “could be part of the transition, where assumptions may have been made about the decision made and that that has not been made … There has been a lot of conversation, and a lot of discussion, I think, about the potential intention; there really hasn’t been a board decision made in a either way. “
Smidt explained last week that “conversations with the school board in the spring indicated that having school resource officers work from the district office was an option. We communicated it in April. As the city and district continued to have conversations and work together this summer, it was determined that ORS should continue to be in our buildings for this school year. “
When will recommendations come about on the future use of officers in Ames school buildings?
Anthony Jones, district equity director, said in April that a task force of about 12 to 15 members – including district college and high school principals, superintendent Hawkins, teachers from each elementary, middle and high school students, a student behavior professional, counselors and some community workers – would examine the role of ORS in Ames.
Jones said Ames wanted to examine the paths taken by other districts.
He added over the summer that information on successful alternatives to using resource officers was being collected in other districts in Iowa and out of state – including Des Moines, where districts decided earlier this year to replace its resource officer program with district staff, and Iowa City, where Jones said the district had never used officers in buildings in his district.
Jones said he hoped the information would be presented to the school board before August or before the start of the school year, but Smidt said last week that officials “were not in a position to obtain reports from other districts of the state of Iowa “.
“As this school year progresses, the study group examining this topic will continue to meet to determine the best outcome for our community,” said Smidt. “The timing of a final decision has not yet been determined.”
Vincent told the Tribune on September 30 that the plan was still to make a recommendation to the school board about the next school year by the end of the calendar year. “The contract we currently have runs until the end of this calendar year, and we’ll know which way we’re going in time to end it, reconfigure it, or start something totally new.”
Phillip Sitter covers education for the Ames Tribune, including the Iowa State University and PreK-12 schools in Ames and elsewhere in Story County. Phillip can be contacted by email at [email protected] He’s on Twitter @pslifeisabeauty.