The majority of the Boulder Valley school board on Tuesday supported a resolution directing the superintendent to remove police officers from schools while creating options to ensure safety and improve discipline practices.

The board is expected to vote on the resolution, which is based on concerns that students of color are more likely to be ticketed, arrested, suspended or expelled, at its Nov. 10 meeting.

The first draft of the resolution directs Superintendent Rob Anderson to develop a timeline and budget to create a comprehensive plan to reduce disparities in school discipline and end the SRO program. The plan is to be presented to the school board by May 1 and considered as part of the district’s budget process.

The resolution doesn’t set a specific date to remove SROs from schools.

At Tuesday’s meeting, school board members disagreed on whether a date for their removal should be specified. If a date is included, Anderson said, the earliest optional plans could be in place and SROs could be removed would be January 2022.

“It’s critical work,” he said. “We’re committed to doing this well.”

All but one board member, Donna Miers indicated support for the resolution. Miers said her experience working with students with intensive needs showed her that police assistance is sometimes needed. She said she would rather see the district improve training for both SROs and staff members.

“I don’t think that eliminating the resource officers that aren’t even a cost to our district … is the best answer,” she said.

School board member Kathy Gebhardt said she wants the district to look at discipline holistically. Most students who are ticketed or arrested are referred to SROs by school staff members, according to district data.

“If we just laser focus on SROs, we’re not going to solve the problem,” she said.

Before removing SROs, the resolution directs the superintendent to develop new school safety plans, revise intergovernmental agreements with law enforcement agencies and create opportunities for the community to learn about and provide input into what school safety will look like without SROs. Suggestions include starting a restorative justice program and hiring more mental health staff.

The resolution also directs the superintendent to incorporate diverse voices of administrators, teachers, students, families and community partners.

Boulder Valley agreed to have a community conversation about school resource officers after the NAACP’s Boulder County chapter asked the district in June to remove police officers from schools.

In its request, the NAACP cited data that shows Boulder Valley students of color are disciplined — sent out of the classroom, suspended or referred to police — at higher rates than their white classmates.

Along with looking at data and the role of school resource officers, the school board asked its new Equity Council and the District Accountability Committee to make recommendations, with both urging their removal from schools.

The 40-member Equity Council — which included parents, students, community members and district employees — was created in consultation with the Colorado Education Initiative and met for six weeks to discuss SROs.

The District Accountability Committee, composed of a parent representative from each school, created a smaller subcommittee and worked with the district’s Latino Parent Advisory Council to formulate its recommendations.

At Tuesday’s school board meeting, parents both urged the district to keep SROs in schools and to remove them.

Lindsey Mecklem​, who started a petition, said SROs give students the opportunity to have positive interactions with police officers, educate students about drugs, deter crime on school campuses and act as informal counselors.

“SROs are essential to providing the safety and education our children need in this environment of doubt and uncertainty,” she said.

Cynthia Negron, a member of the Equity Council, said police officers in schools can feel threatening to students of color and, because their numbers are so limited, aren’t that likely to be at a school when there’s a crisis.

“The illusion of safety is not worth the reality,” she said. “These officers are not the answer.”

Boulder Valley has 10 school resource officers from police departments in Boulder, Broomfield, Lafayette and Louisville and the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office, according to district officials.

The officers are paid by their respective agencies and do not cost the school district any money — though some agencies have unsuccessfully lobbied Boulder Valley in the past to contribute to the cost.

The Boulder City Council also recently voted on a budget that reduces the school resource officers provided by Boulder police to only one, reallocating four SRO positions to training positions.

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