Superintendent’s report says policing ‘does not belong’ in Richmond schools; recommends expanding officers’ role

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Possible changes for School Resource Officers to keep students safer in the classroom

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — In a public document submitted to the Richmond City School Board, Richmond Public Schools Superintendent Jason Kamras laid out his recommendations for re-imagining the role of School Resource Officers (SROs) after over a year of study.

Among his recommendations: having SROs change over to “soft” uniforms, having SROs mentor groups of students, and developing a diversion program to end arrests for non-violent offenses.

And though the report opens “the Administration believes that the institution of policing does not belong in schools,” none of the recommendations involve a reduction in the scope of SRO involvement in Richmond schools.

The report will be taken up by the school board on Monday, Aug. 16 at 6 p.m. in the auditorium of Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School (1000 Mosby St, Richmond, VA 23223).

While much of the attention last year focused on the role of SROs, who are affiliated with the Richmond Police Department, the new recommendations would also expand the role of School Security Officers – school staff unaffiliated with the police who provide security services.

Kamras recommended to the board that they be rebranded as “Care and Safety Associates” – and begin home visits to students with attendance issues.

And again the superintendent recommended a uniform change, proposing that they use a polo shirt and khakis instead of the current “security uniform.”

Notably, the document seems to indicate that, even if it is adopted, arrests of Richmond students for non-violent offenses will continue for the foreseeable future until RPD and RPS can work on “negotiating these updates.”

According to data from RPS, during the 2019-2020 school year, 50 students were arrested for simple assault, the largest category recorded – but at least 30 students were arrested for simple possession of marijuana.

In a school division where 75% of students are Black, that’s led some advocates to criticize the presence of SROs as criminalizing youth.

If the recommendations are adopted by the board on Monday, Richmond Public Schools will be able to “revisit the future of the [SRO] program” in 2023, when the district’s Memorandum of Understanding with RPD expires.

Read the superintendent’s report to the board below:

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