Madison school board postpones police contract renewal

Madison school board postpones police contract renewal

The Madison school board is reassessing the role of police in high schools around the area.

Monday night the board postponed a decision to vote on the district’s security partnership with the Madison Police Department.

Since 1998, the district has partnered with Madison police to station officers at the three high schools.

The contracts have lasted three years in the past, but the board is looking to shorten the contract to one year and use that upcoming year to reassess the officer’s role inside the schools.

The board voted Monday night to postpone the vote for 45 days.

Parents say keeping officers in schools is critical.

Andrea Jones’s daughter is a sophomore at La Follette High School, but she said the relationship between her daughter and the school’s police officer started before she started high school.

“When she had issues she would go to him and confide in him,” Jones said of the La Follette education resource officer. “He noticed her name was coming up as the kid that was being bullied so he was able to redirect her prior to getting into high school and since she has been there she hasn’t had any issues.”

Capt. Brian Ackeret said the ability for EROs to form relationships with students like Jones’s daughter helps to eliminate future conflict.

“One of their biggest assists to having officers in schools is the ability to build positive relationships outside of conflict,” Ackeret said.

Jones owns a local day care and knows what it means to keep kids safe, which is why she says keeping police officers in schools is important for students and staff.

“I think the officers would take a lot of responsibility off the teachers, however if you remove the officers now you have the teachers having to fill that position,” she said.

A number of the speakers at Monday night’s meeting wanted to limit or eliminate the role officers have in the schools altogether. The board cited concerns relayed by the community over the way EROs interact with students, but Ackeret said officers aren’t there to punish students.

“The misperception that police are only in the schools for enforcement tool and are actually doing more harm than good by giving a citation for everything from chewing gum, that’s far from what really takes place on the campuses of our Madison schools,” he said.

“Part of taking a year is to look at these different models that are in place throughout the country. How are they working? We want to get all this data to make sure we have the best state of the art approach of police in schools,” said James Howard, Madison school board president.

Board members said the flexibility of a one-year contract would allow them to evaluate findings from the city-approved study to look into the police department’s policies, training and procedures. According to the board, that information is critical in determining how or if they will proceed with the partnership.

The board will take up the issue again after further talks with the Madison Police Department.