PPS disbanded their SROs, so why won't Lake Oswego?
Earlier this month, Portland Public Schools severed ties with Student Resource Officers provided by the Portland Police Bureau. Now some Lake Oswego students and community members are asking Lake Oswego School District to do the same.
"At this time we don't have plans to disband our two SROs," Lake Oswego School District Superintendent Lora de la Cruz said.
SROs are armed police officers who are stationed at schools. Lake Oswego's SROs are Bryan Sheldon and James Euscher. One is based at each high school.
De la Cruz said Lake Oswego is fortunate to have a police department that is community-oriented.
"I have a strong working relationship with (Police) Chief (Dale) Jorgensen and we began talking immediately when any questions started arising about SROs," she said. "We are both of a like mind about community-oriented policing as an opportunity to create positive relationships."
She said she understands that many people have not had positive experiences with police.
"It does matter to me that we have students in our schools that may feel less comfortable with law enforcement," she said.
De la Cruz said she's been in communication with the presidents of the Black Student Unions at each high school for perspective in the past and she intends to talk with them about the presence of SROs in the district.
"And so I would say that at this time although we are not talking about disbanding our SROs in the near future, we are talking about how that role might look differently," she said.
She said her and Jorgensen have talked about ways to build approachability in officers, which might include a potential uniform change.
Students aren't the only ones uncomfortable with the presence of SROs on school grounds. A group of teachers, staff and community members created a petition under the name LO Change asking the district to reconsider the presence of SROs in school buildings, among other things. The group has gathered over 1,000 signatures on a petition listing immediate anti-racist actions the district should take.
"Examine whether research supports this type of staffing as an effective evidence-based practice. Instead, hire additional counselors and social workers who understand our community, our students, and are skilled in de escalation, and restorative practices," the petition states.
The petition also asks — among other things — that the district require schools to track racist incidents, conduct an audit of current curriculum, update reading lists to remove outdated and stereotypical titles, and examine the district's hiring practices.
"We cannot wait until August and the new school year to examine our practices, policies, and curriculum and to enact real change," the petition states.
De la Cruz said SROs not only provide a layer of satey, they build relationships with students as well.
She said they support staff and have been trained — by mental health professionals —in de-escalation.
LOSD Director of Communications Mary Kay Larson said SROs give talks in classrooms on safety issues and provide event management at sporting events and graduations.
De la Cruz said, moving forward, she wants to continue hearing the perspectives of students and community members.
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