Changes to the program were brought up last year following the death of George Floyd, with residents including many youths telling city leaders that they thought the SRO program needed reforming, while others said they wanted to end the 19 year-old program entirely.
"Through this partnership, the city of Pleasanton has provided two full-time school resource officers throughout the school district to enhance school safety, strengthen the relationship between youth and law enforcement, and enhance educational opportunities centered on positive interaction with youth in our community," staff said in a report.
The draft MOU was unanimously approved by the PUSD Board of Trustees at its Oct. 28 meeting. The trustees gave feedback for proposed amendments to the MOU, which was prepared after 2,256 parents, staff and parents in the district responded to a survey about the program earlier this year. The City Council, Youth Commission and city/PUSD liaison committee also weighed in during various stages of the process.
Survey respondents "showed a high level of support for the program and a general increased feeling of safety when having SROs on campus," according to a city staff report, and also "indicated they would like to continue the SRO program as is."
Other respondents said they wanted to continue the program, but "with some changes." Almost 79% of parents/guardians and district staff, and 47.8% of students who took the survey said the SRO program "should continue as is or continue with changes."
According to city staff, the draft MOU was "amended to include specific language on access to student records and a definition of de-escalation strategies." On Oct. 28, the PUSD trustees also unanimously supported adding minor language to the SRO program goals to include building relationships between the police and students.
Amended language under a description of representative duties on Page 2 of the MOU states, "SROs will have access to student educational records as allowable by the California Education Code and PUSD board policies and administrative regulations on student records," and that "PUSD will not release student information or student records to non-educational organizations or to non-school officials or employees, without parent consent, except by court order, receipt of lawfully issued subpoena, or when otherwise allowed by law."
One page in the MOU receiving more attention is Page 8, which states that SROs "will, when appropriate, engage in de-escalation tactics to resolve conflict." District officials proposed expanding the definition of deescalation to being "the process of using strategies and techniques intended to decrease the intensity of a situation including, but not limited to, using restorative practices, verbal and non-verbal communication techniques and non-confrontational practices to gain control."
City staff said they are "supportive" of amending the program goals but "changing the definition of de-escalation to include restorative practices is problematic as restoration of a relationship occurs between the involved parties after the incident has resolved and not in the throes of crisis -- which is when de-escalation practices are employed."
Instead, staff recommended deleting the reference to restorative practices and "inserting the words, 'when possible' prior to non-confrontational practices."
"Staff understands and supports the continued use of verbal and non-verbal communication techniques and currently employs non-confrontational strategies, when possible, in all aspects of its service to the community," they said.
Though the draft MOU was delayed, members of the community including several Amador Valley High students were still able to speak about the document's most recently proposed amendments during public comment before the council on Tuesday.
Holly Fletcher, a senior at Amador and vice president of the Grassroots Law Project local chapter, said "there are still changes that must be made in the MOU" including "language clearly stating parental notification" take place before students are interrogated by an SRO.
"We have heard from our allies, parents and students that there's a concern that interrogation of minors could occur without parental notification," Fletcher said. "Isn't this a violation of due process?"
The group also asked for clarification on an item concerning a multidisciplinary mental health response and "notification of parents or caregivers when determining it is safe to do so."
"In this scenario, what does 'after determining it is safe to do so' mean? We ask that you clarify what 'safe to do so' means in the context of this item," Fletcher added.
Several other students who phoned in also said "the lack of language around parental notification before a criminal interrogation is particularly concerning," and asked "what criteria will be used to evaluate the lasting effectiveness of the MOU." In addition, students also wanted "a concrete number or percentage reduction be stated to know what we are aiming for."
Resident John Bauer said, "People believe that the role of the SRO is to keep students, teachers and administrators safe. But the current MOU doesn't say that; it dances around this subject."
"Why does the MOU not specifically and explicitly state that the purpose of the MOU or the responsibility of the SRO is to keep students safe?" Bauer said. "It's very simple; people believe from the survey that the police are on campus to keep students safe. It's very simple; the MOU should state the police are there to keep students, teachers and administrators safe."
If adopted, the MOU will expire on June 30, 2024. Costs for running the $417,094 program, including two full-time officers, will be funded by the city.
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