DEWITT, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — In the wake of a national reckoning over police and race, there has been some controversy within the Jamesville-DeWitt School District about its school resource officer program.
On Monday, Sept. 14, the school district’s Board of Education voted five to four to a short-term agreement to restore its school resource officer, at least through the end of Dec. 31, 2020. The SRO will be back in J-D’s high school on Monday, Sept. 21.
However, on Aug. 24, the school board did not approve the SRO contract with the Town of DeWitt Police Department ahead of the 2020 school year.
Dr. Peter Smith, Jamesville-DeWitt’s superintendent, said there’s been a lot of back-and-forth about whether the SRO program serves as a benefit or detriment.
“The school resource officer is a key piece to our entire approach to safety, not only here at the high school but through the entire district,” Smith explained. “I think that this is a very emotional issue. I think that there are strong feelings on both sides.”
Jamesville-DeWitt first implemented the full-time police officer at the high school back in 2018. However, since then, the board has received a petition with 1,000 signatures in support of the SRO program and another with more than 1,300 signatures which oppose having the officer in the school.
“While the school resource officer is back in place through the end of the calendar year, we have a task force that’s being organized to evaluate and make the decision whether or not a school resource officer is really in the best path for Jamesville-DeWitt,” said Smith.
The district’s task force will be responsible for reviewing the school resource officer’s role and examining data and feedback from the public.
Jamesville-DeWitt’s School Board President Wendy Rhodes said the task force will meet at least four times prior to December to “create a perception survey, review the role of the school resource officer and analyze relevant program data with the goal of coming to consensus around the recommended next steps.”
The task force is being chaired by Assistant Superintendent Nate Franz and J-D High School Assistant Principal Candace Johnson.
The safety and security of our students and staff is absolutely the number one priority, and we have to make sure all of our students and staff feel safe and secure. So, the SRO and consideration of that position is an important piece.Dr. Peter Smith, Superintendent at Jamesville-DeWitt School District
In response to the recent agreement, the Town of DeWitt Police Department said the following in a statement to NewsChannel 9:
“The Town of DeWitt Police Department supports the Jamesville DeWitt School Board’s decision to reinstate the School Resource Officer. We are committed to the School Resource Officer position and are equally committed to being a resource in the decision-making process, going forward, with the goal being to provide the best possible service to the Jamesville DeWitt Community,”
A long-term decision of whether or not Jamesville-DeWitt continues its SRO program beyond this short-term agreement is expected by early next year.
You can find more information from the school district’s most recent meeting here.
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