The Tigard-Tualatin School District has inked a new contract with the cities of Tigard and Tualatin to ensure that police officers continue patrolling the halls and grounds of district schools.
The new contract, however, spells out certain changes in the role of school resource officers (SRO), which includes having the officers take part in training centered on equity, trauma informed practices, culturally responsive leadership and restorative practices, as well as cross-organizational training with school staff to better partner with them in providing safe schools.
SROs will also be required to take part in community events that include listening and question-and-answer sessions with the Tigard and Tualatin communities, as well as working to facilitate relationships with members of historically underserved communities among staff, students and families.
“I can’t even express the amount of gratitude I have for our community members and our task force that helped edit the agreements as well as our city partners that honored the feedback and answered questions,” Zinnia Un, the district’s Director of Equity and Inclusion said at a March 15 Tigard-Tualatin School Board meeting. “It’s a huge effort for many in our district. The theme I saw tonight is how a system with an equity lens pulls together those connectors for a more equitable system.”
The School Board formally approved the new contract at its April 12 meeting, and it took effect in time for SROs to return to schools by the April 19 start of hybrid classroom-online learning for middle and high school students. In Tigard, SROs’ primary assignments will be Tigard High School, Fowler Middle School, Twality Middle School, Durham Center and the elementary schools that fall within the department’s jurisdiction. The City will provide the services of at least two officers, according to the new contract, with a third expected to start duty in the fall.
The two officers scheduled to head back to school in April are Officer Nick Nunn, who is assigned to Tigard High School, and Officer Jon Moehring, who is assigned to Fowler Middle School.
The decision to retain SROs in district schools came after a lengthy report released last November detailed how a significant minority of students and families were uncomfortable with the presence of armed police inside school facilities. The subsequent changes in SRO training and engagement with staff, students and their families are intended to address that discomfort while maintaining the wishes of the majority to retain a police role in local schools.
In addition, the SRO program will be reviewed annually by the school district.
“This is something all of our partners were really adamant to include given the work that we’ve done as part of our community process,” Un said.
The community-wide review of the district’s SRO program was initiated following the widespread protests launched by last June’s police killing of Minneapolis resident George Floyd. The protests have resulted in widespread demands for reform of policing practices across the country. The school district’s review of its SRO program was one of many such responses to those calls and was spurred by a request last summer by Tigard High School Black Student Union leader Abdi Mohamoud.
Tigard City Manager Steve Rymer praised the work of his City’s police chief, Kathy McAlpine, as well as Commander Jaime McDonald, for their work with the community in helping bring about the new contract.
“I want to thank the Chief for working to make sure the community gets the services they deserve,” Rymer said at an April 14 Tigard City Council meeting.