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OKLAHOMA CITY (Free Press) — The Oklahoma City School District Board of Education approved a budget of $2 million for its School Resource Officer contract with the Oklahoma City Police Department (OKCPD) for the next school year starting July 1.

Eighteen OKCPD officers will be SROs in the program.

The contract calls for supervision of those officers by two lieutenants provided by OKCPD. The lieutenants will be dedicated to leading the SROs and holding regular briefings with the officers.

A captain in the OKCPD will supervise the entire program in tandem with Joseph Slawinski, Director of Security for OKCPS who answered our questions Monday after the Board of Education meeting where the security budget was approved.

The SRO duties will include regular duty for 185 school days in addition to pay for duty at sporting events and other activities after regular class hours. The contract also includes augmenting district security officers at School Board meetings.

An Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Deputy will be SRO at Spencer High School in the unincorporated part of Eastern Oklahoma County and outside the jurisdiction of the Oklahoma City limits and OKCPD. That SRO will be paid under a separate contract.

Clarified purpose

In recent years OKCPS has clarified what is expected of SROs because of local and national criticism that SROs were making too many arrests of students for simple discipline problems that should have been handled by teachers and principals.

Eventually, zero-tolerance discipline policies and police being asked to arrest students for what used to be discipline issues were seen as heavy contributors to the “school-to-prison pipeline,” the concept that harsh school discipline does not build relationships and leads to students being arrested at a higher rate in and out of school. The results were more students of color and those from lower economic groups going to prison at progressively earlier ages.

In the early days of SRO programs in the metro, a single SRO essentially worked at the direction of the principal of their building. If a principal was ineffective, the drift started quickly toward having the SRO arrest students instead of the teachers and administrators using well-researched discipline concepts that would build better relationships with students.

But, OKCPS has been working on big conceptual changes to the program long overdue.

According to Slawinski, last year the district staff and teachers worked together to develop a clear set of expectations for the SROs to focus on safety and resist the temptation to pull them into discipline enforcement.

Support

“The gist of it is basically the SRO is there for support, first and foremost, to protect property, OKCPS employees, visitors and students,” said Slawinski. “They’re not there as a watchdog. They don’t have anything to do with school discipline, and that’s good.”

The OKCPD providing the direct day-to-day supervision from department lieutenants dedicated to the SROs holds promise for getting them out of the discipline loop and focused on safety and security.

“We want to make the SRO approachable,” said Slawinski who added that students need to feel comfortable enough with the SRO to let them know when a dangerous situation may be developing.

“It’s the same thing as good community policing,” he said. “I have to build rapport with the public.”

Last Updated June 29, 2021, 9:58 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor