The L.A. County Board of Supervisors postponed its previously scheduled vote on the future of the county’s School Resource Officer program, pushing the discussion and vote on the item to a meeting later this month.
Although little reason was given for the postponement, officials said that the SRO item — along with two companion items involving the program — would be held until the June 28 regular meeting at the request of Supervisor Holly Mitchell, who originally introduced the potential policies.
The proposed motion, entitled “Improving School Climate and Safety,” would change the way in which the Sheriff’s Department negotiates its contracts with local school districts. In its current format, school boards and administrators are allowed to dictate and negotiate the terms and conditions of the contract with the Sheriff’s Department — which is then approved by the Board of Supervisors.
However, if the motion were adopted by the Board of Supervisors, it would give them more control over how law enforcement and school campuses interact. It would also allow the county to take “an intentional approach” toward their goal of providing districts with more mental health and behavioral specialists, who will focus on “restorative justice,” as opposed to “punitive practices,” such as citation and arrest.
While supporters of the move see it as a way in which the county can enhance school/public safety while also reducing justice system involvement in young students’ lives, the William S. Hart Union High School District sent a letter to the Board of Supervisors last week saying it actually hampers their ability to ensure parents and students feel safe on their campuses.
The Hart district has for years negotiated directly with LASD to draft and approve an approximately $1 million annual contract that provides a handful of deputies covering two to three schools each. The board of trustees said in the letter that the Saugus High shooting in November 2019 “highlighted for us the value of the collaborative relationship” between the school district and law enforcement.
Supervisor Kathryn Barger, in her own statement last week, said she supports the SRO program due to the deputies’ “training curriculum” that encompasses everything from “juvenile mental health, understanding the adolescent brain and students with special needs, de-escalation and crisis intervention techniques.”