Tacoma Public Schools continues its work to develop an updated comprehensive school safety and security plan to present to the School Board in the next few months.
Part of that work included gathering survey data from students and their family, staff, and other community members about their feelings about having School Resource Officers (SROs) in high schools. SROs are Tacoma Police Department officers assigned under contract at each of our five comprehensive high schools. SROs have not served in TPS high schools this school year.
Results from the survey were mixed. Survey data showed that roughly 63 percent of students were opposed to the TPD officers in the high schools. About 65 percent of staff and parents together were in favor of keeping them.
In the survey, people raised concerns about disproportionate policing by race and disability; creating an intimidating presence at schools; and that having armed officers in schools runs counter to TPS efforts to support student social-emotional learning and restorative justice practices.
They also cited benefits of the SRO program, including improved onsite emergency response time; having an additional layer of safety beyond school security staff; and the opportunity to create or improve relationships between students and local police officers.
Earlier this year, the School Board directed Superintendent Carla Santorno to take a comprehensive look at all levels of school safety and security—not just the Tacoma police officer services—and present a wholistic package of recommendations for improving school safety and security.
A team including school principals, members of our social-emotional learning team, Human Resources Department, Safety and Security Department, and Legal Department is using the survey data and student and community input to help them consider whether there are better ways to provide school safety, and what that could look like.
The tentative plan is to update the School Board as soon as May and make a formal recommendation in June.
If you would like to provide feedback to the District during this process, please email SROFeedback@tacoma.k12.wa.us.
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