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Pajaro Valley Unified School District considers alterations to School Resource Officer contracts

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WATSONVILLE, Calif. (KION) The Pajaro Valley Unified School District Board of Trustees plans to discuss School Resource Officers at an upcoming meeting. They'll review the roles that SROs hold in high schools as they evaluate next steps for the upcoming school year.

PVUSD works with Watsonville Police Department at Watsonville High School and Pajaro Valley High School and the Santa Cruz Sheriff's Department at Aptos High School. There's one officer at each campus.

School Resource Officers are sworn officers that handle a wide range of issues including dealing with school threats, deterring criminal activity and handling truancy and other behavior issues.

“They’re already on campus so if an issue does develop, they’re able to 
quickly respond and handle it,” Watsonville PD Captain Michael McKinley said.

Supporters of campus student resource officers point to the safety they provide.

Data from the district, shows 39 expulsions in the 2018 school year, many were for possession weapons, like knives. This school year, there 
were 14 expulsions, a a majority were for students causing or threatening physical injury.

The data also shows there were nine citations issued at PVHS, three at Aptos High and one at WHS this school year. Authorities responded to 4 threats at WHS and two at Aptos High, but didn't respond to any threats at PVHS, according to the data.

Resource officers can issue citations and make arrests if necessary, but 
they do not handle school disciplinary action, like issuing suspensions or 
expulsions. Watsonville PD says that’s up school administration.
In addition to providing security on campus, Captain Michael McKinley says they also serve off campus .

“They regularly meet with parents and students regarding family issues and they also help coordinate services,”McKinley said.

This comes at a time when there's a larger discussion on a national level as to whether schools should remove the resource officers altogether.

KION spoke with a recent WHS graduate who said she understands importance of security on their campus. But thinks funding for campus police should go toward other student resources.

“I feel like the school district should consider potentially getting rid of 
them and instead of having those funds go to security or police on campuses, they should put those funds into resources like mental health or any other prevention programs,” Thaily Guzman said.

PVUSD staff is recommending that the district continue the contract with 
some alterations, like setting aside funding for social emotional counselors 
and having officers come to more student events.

Student Services Director Rick Ito will present a report that includes feedback and recommendations as the board considers altering the SRO contracts Wednesday night at 7:00 p.m. It will stream on YouTube.

In a statement to KION, PVUSD Superintendent Dr. Michelle Rodriguez said:

“We have a fundamental responsibility to actively ensure the safety, health, and social emotional well-being of students as they grow into thriving, engaged citizens of our community, the nation and the world. In addition, we have the responsibility to be good stewards of the use of public funds to create the most positive impact on our students. Tonight, we will be examining data and reviewing the roles that School Resource Officers hold in our high schools as we evaluate next steps for the upcoming school year.”

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To view the report, click here: https://go.boarddocs.com/ca/pvusd/Board.nsf/files/BQUVY782F9D3/$file/6-24%20School%20Resource%20Officers.pdf

Education / Santa Cruz County / Top Stories

Elisha Machado

Elisha Machado is a weekend anchor and multi-media journalist at KION News Channel 5/46.

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