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School board also recommends changes, including clarification of roles and new training

The West Linn-Wilsonville School Board voted 4-1 to retain the School Resource Officer program at West Linn and Wilsonville schools during a meeting Monday, Oct. 26.

In August, the board charged the district with evaluating the current SRO program and presenting its findings to the board along with a recommendation and possible improvements.

"Is it perfect? No … Do I feel like the commitments, the recommended improvements are going to strengthen this program? I do," said board member Chelsea King.

In the leadup to Monday's decision, the district administered a survey to students, staff, parents and the general community.

The survey was analyzed by Patickin Research. Maggie Simich, a senior analyst at Patickin Research, presented the data at the meeting.

The survey results, which included 2,447 responses from the community, showed students had more frequent interactions with SROs than parents.

Nearly eight in 10 respondents reported "very positive" interactions with SROs, and white respondents were more likely to report a positive interaction than respondents of color.

The survey showed that respondents felt the SROs' primary role was to create a safe learning environment and deal with crime in schools, while goals of building community, engaging in restorative practices and promoting wellness were viewed as less of a priority.

In open-ended responses, some said they were either unfamiliar with the role or believed it to be harmful.

The survey captured responses from roughly 3% of the district's student population and roughly 8% of the parent population.

Simich said the survey was not the best representation of student perspective given how few students were involved in the survey.

"Students definitely make up a very small percentage of the survey. And so the margin of error for students within the survey is much larger," Simich said. "And so if what you're interested in evaluating the program on is based on student feedback, this survey's not the best tool with which to do that."

Even so, Director of Communications Andrew Kilstrom said it was the largest survey response the district had received in recent years.

Superintendent Kathy Ludwig recommended the district retain the SRO program while making improvements.

Suggested improvements included drafting a new Memorandum of Understanding between the district and the cities based on the ACLU of California Model Memorandum and other equity-based examples, while also providing clarity to the SROs' roles and responsibilities, creating a three-year review of the program's effectiveness and implementing a range of training on implicit bias, cultural competence and restorative practices.

The majority of the board believed this was a good start and felt comfortable voting to retain the SRO program.

"What I see here are some really good improvements based on some concern that we've seen," board member Christy Thompson said.

Board member Dylan Hydes didn't feel the same way.

"I don't feel that an meaningful analysis has happened," he said.

He cited a lack of clarity on what the program costs to run, and the lack of representation of the student and parent perspective.

"So my request to my fellow board members is to not support tonight's resolution as a chance to go back and do the thorough analysis — the evidence-based analysis that we charged them with in August," he said.

He said his vote was not against SROs.

"My vote tonight is a vote to engage in a more meaningful process than I feel has happened so far," Hydes said.

School board Chair Regan Molatore said given the tight timeline, the district did the best it could.

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