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Saturday, July 28, 2018

New agreement clarifies role of SROs

Officer James Cottom, an SRO at Lake
Braddock Secondary School. [FCPD]
A revised Memorandum of Understanding between the Fairfax County School Board and the Fairfax County Police Department FCPD clarifies the the role of School Resource Officers (SROs), with the goal of better protecting students’ rights.

The school board approved the new SRO July 26. The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote on it July 31.

The school board also approved spending $4 million to improve school security, including $1 million to replace outdated door locks in classrooms, enabling school personnel to better carry out school lockdowns in emergencies.

The security measures, recommended by Superintendent Scott Braband, also include eight new positions to enhance security training in the schools and 18 positions for psychologists and social  workers to strengthen mental health support for students in middle schools and some elementary schools.

The MOU on SROs was developed by Brabrand and Police Chief Edwin Roessler with input from an SRO Community Review Committee, made up of representatives from FCPS and community-based organizations. SROs are police officers stationed in middle and high schools.

Language added to the MOU states: “FCPD officers are not agents of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency, and as such they shall not participate in any requests for assistance that is not of a criminal nature within FCPS.”

The revised MOU also:
  • Establishes a clear division between the role of the SRO in criminal matters and FCPS administrative staff on student discipline matters.
  • Clarifies that SROs are not involved in determining student discipline under the FCPS Student Rights and Responsibilities regulation.
  • States that SROs shall not be involved with the enforcement of school rules or disciplinary infractions that are not violations of law.
  • Removes the “stop and frisk” language from the previous MOU.
  • Adds SRO training focused on implicit bias, disability awareness, crisis intervention training, restorative justice techniques, and cultural competency.
Several follow-on motions were approved by the board, including a motion directing the superintendent to submit by Oct. 31 a description of the current FCPD practices of sharing information about students or family members with ICE or other law enforcement agencies.

Another follow-on motion calls for the superintendent to report to the board by March 31, 2019, on how the MOU could be clarified to ensure that: (a) administrative discipline-related conversations with students are conducted by FCPS staff only, with no SRO presence; and (b) law-enforcement-related conversations are conducted separately, by SROs only, unless parents or school staff feel a student would benefit from the presence of another trusted adult.

Other follow-on motions address the feasibility of excluding SROs from attending discipline hearings conducted by the hearings office and the need to protect sensitive student information.

The MOU emphasizes restorative justice, alternative accountability programs, and increased transparency, says school board chair Karen Corbett Sanders. The document states that “the vast majority of student misconduct can be best addressed through classroom and in-school strategies.” 

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