CHAPEL HILL, NC (WNCN) – The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School District is making changes to its school resource officer program. The board reached the decision after about two hours of debate on the role, if any, of ORS in school safety.
In a 5-1 decision, the board voted with Option 2, which keeps the ORS program as is while adding behavioral health professionals for discipline.
One college, however, will have its SRO removed and replaced with a full-time behavioral health specialist as part of a pilot program.
The board will also review its memorandum of understanding for the SRO program in 90 days.
The full text of Option 2 is as follows: “School Resource Officers (SROs) are placed in each middle and high school and provide support to elementary schools as needed. School administrators and school climate/behavioral health professionals lead student discipline and behavioral interventions.
The decision came following a safety review of the school and the SRO which began in 2020 with a task force.
As part of this review, the district sent a safety survey to the school community.
When asked if they felt safe overall, 79% of students and 83% of staff said yes.
As to whether ORS contributes to overall safety, 87% of students and 90% of staff said they do.
The full survey results and review of the SRO program can be read here.
Some concerns of board members about ORS relate to racial equity, with one board member citing the study saying that black students had a disproportionately higher number of interactions with ORS compared to their percentage of the student body.
There was also a fear of equating an officer in a school with a false sense of security.
Council members asked the police chiefs of Chapel Hill and Carrboro about the program.
Leaders voiced their support saying they see it as a way to build rapport with students and said the knowledge an SRO has of the physical school building is invaluable if there is ever an active shooter situation.
According to the district study, there were 563 interactions with ORS last year.
The two main categories were administrative support and positive interactions.