Re-1 school board OKs resource officer agreement
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – An agreement hashed out between the Roaring Fork School District Re-1 and local police agencies urges “extraordinary discretion” whenever the work of school resource police officers deals with immigrant students and their families.
However, an official memorandum of understanding approved unanimously by the Re-1 school board Wednesday stops short of asking that school resource officers (SRO) not collaborate with federal immigration enforcement officers.
“This is not an easy issue, and I can say I have personally changed my position over time as we have worked on this,” school board president Matt Hamilton said. “Ultimately, we cannot write the job description for SROs, because they are not our employees.”
Though the school district financially supports the SRO programs in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt schools, the officers work for the local police departments and have other duties.
Members of a student advocacy group who brought the issue before the school board last fall said the agreement “lacks teeth” in preventing SROs from working in a dual capacity as immigration officers. They also said the agreement was drafted without their input.
“We don’t feel like this addresses our concerns,” Candice Alderfer, a Basalt High School student and member of Association of Youth United in Action (known as AJUA in Spanish), said at the Wednesday school board meeting.
“We would ask that you remove our name from this, because it is between the police chiefs and the school district,” Alderfer said. “As long as officers are cross-designated with ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement), we will never give them our trust. This arrangement has made the (SRO) program ineffective.”
The group vowed to continue educating the community on the issue. It also intends to keep pushing for a more stringent SRO policy that would prevent the officers from working in a dual capacity with ICE.
School board members Daniel Biggs and Richard Stettner took the lead in working with area police chiefs to address the issue. Biggs said AJUA’s concerns were heard and were considered in drafting the agreement.
The agreement acknowledges that the district is committed to providing a safe learning environment for students. The SRO program is a component of that, it states.
It goes on to state that the “immigration status of our students or their families, whether documented or undocumented, is irrelevant to this commitment.
“The police departments are encouraged to assign outside duties to SROs … with extraordinary discretion where a student’s family immigration status may come into question, as these assignments may diminish the necessary trust the SROs have worked so long to build with the student and the family,” the agreement concludes.
AJUA representatives criticized the agreement, saying it lacks a way to remove an SRO who fails to use that discretion.
Biggs said the school board did hear the group’s concerns.
“That doesn’t mean we necessarily agree with them,” Biggs said. “I feel like this has been a very interactive process.”
But he said he also heard comments from parents and other community members who urged the board to reaffirm its support of the SRO program.
The board also heard from two parents at the Wednesday meeting who said the board’s action should not hamper the work of local police.
Stettner said the agreement is an important step in creating a more formal partnership between the school district and local police.
“We went from not having anything to now having something in writing,” Stettner said.
The issue came to light last year when AJUA, along with the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, called into question the practice of having SROs assigned to work with ICE as part of the inter-agency Operation Community Shield anti-gang task force.
Last month, AJUA presented its research findings to the school board indicating the cross-designation practice is unique to local police agencies. They asked for a policy prohibiting officers from doing SRO and task force work at the same time.
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