Hamden Agreement Limits SRO Involvement in Student Discipline

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HAMDEN – Training requirements, rules preventing involvement of school resource officers in routine discipline and data sharing goals are among provisions set out in a new memorandum of understanding that outlines the role of SROs in schools public of Hamden.

The school board has approved the memorandum of understanding, which represents an agreement between the board, the school district, and the police department.

It’s the result of efforts that began in January, according to Jacqueline Beirne, facilitator of the Strengthening Police & Community Partnerships Council.

Beirne helped draft the memorandum of understanding, which she said provided an “opportunity to bridge a gap between the population that says cops have no place in school and the population that wants cops.” at school”.

Asked what started the process, Beirne recalled how the fall of 2021 saw a frequent police presence at Hamden High School.

Meanwhile, the district has faced threats of violence, a stabbing just off campus and an incident in which police arrested a student after a gun was allegedly found in his backpack.

“All the problems we faced in high school last year (required) constantly calling the police,” Beirne said.

As events unfolded, officials realized the SRO MOU had expired, Beirne said.

Then-Superintendent of Schools Jody Goeler, then-Chief of Police John Sullivan, Board of Education President Melissa Kaplan, and High School SRO Jeremy Brewer thus began their efforts to create a new document, Beirne said.

The New Haven Registry obtained a copy of the memorandum of understanding, which officials said would be made public once the parties involved signed.

The document describes the objectives of the SRO program. They include maintaining a safe school environment, preventing juvenile delinquency, and promoting a positive school culture and positive attitudes regarding the role of the police in society.

Under the MOU, SROs must regularly participate in training on autism, LGBTQ, trauma-informed policing, and diversity, equity and inclusion.

The agreement also dictates when they can and cannot be involved in student conduct matters, excluding SROs from being involved in ordinary discipline or questioning a student unless the matter is related. to criminal activity.

Police intervention “should only take place where student behavior violates criminal law, but only after interventions in the classroom, school, administration, assessment and services have been attempted,” the memorandum of understanding reads, noting that SROs can also respond to emergency situations.

Under the agreement, four SROs are to be assigned to the district: two in high school, one in middle school, and a “substitute” SRO who moves between schools. Due to current staffing issues, the MOU recognizes that the Chief of Police may not be able to fill these positions immediately.

Although SROs remain employees of the police department, the principal may reject the appointment of a police officer to a school, the memorandum of understanding says, also outlining a process for school principals to file complaints against SROs.

SROs must work with administrators to improve security procedures, educate students about security, and act as a resource for students, staff, and families as per the agreement.

The memorandum of understanding prohibits the OARs from asking staff to search students and, if a student needs to be arrested, instructs the OAR to avoid making the arrest in front of other students. The SRO and the district should compile data on SRO-student interactions in a form that protects student identities but can be shared with the community.

In a written statement, Kaplan, who chairs the council, explained how increasing the presence of ORS in schools increases the likelihood that students will interact with the juvenile justice system and “promote the school-to-prison pipeline.”

“This has impacted black and brown students and students with disabilities, especially those with emotional behavioral disorders, who are disproportionately at risk of being exposed to disciplinary action,” she wrote.

The new memorandum of understanding is not about whether schools should have ORS, Kaplan said, but rather recognizes the presence of ORS and defines their role in ways that prevent harm, protect student rights and facilitate a culture positive school.

“I hope that with the SRO Memorandum of Understanding in place, we have begun to take the necessary steps to protect our most vulnerable students and have begun the important work to change discriminatory disciplinary practices,” Kaplan wrote.

The board unanimously approved the deal at a meeting on August 31, according to a registration available on the department’s website.

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