Charlottesville CIty Schools is ending its current school resource officer program and planning to work with city officials to explore other models, officials said Thursday.
The school division, police department and city manager issued a joint statement to announce the mutual decision. Officials had been reviewing the 2016 memorandum of understanding that governs the program.
“The existing MOU is not in the best interest of students and staff,” City Manager Tarron Richardson said in the statement. “This is an opportunity to listen broadly, to look at other approaches, and to craft a model that will serve our schools well. We will seek feedback from our citizens and explore national models.”
Charlottesville had four full-time School Resource Officers in its buildings during the year. With school out of session, those officers have been assigned to other patrols, according to the statement.
Jennifer McKeever, chairwoman of the Charlottesville City School Board, said they’ll conduct a national search for a new model.
“We must find a way to not only ensure physical safety, but also to promote mental and emotional well-being,” she said in the statement.
In recent weeks, school districts across the country have sought to remove SROs or reevaluate their role in schools following national protests about police brutality.
The Charlottesville chapter of the Black Lives Matter movement called on the city School Board to end its MOU with the police department. The city School Board will meet Thursday evening and discuss school resource officers, per the meeting agenda.
The Albemarle County School Board is also meeting. Although the SRO program is not an agenda item, the topic is expected to be brought up during public comment.
The city schools budgeted about $300,000 to pay for the program. That money now will be used to support whatever new model is decided upon, according to the news release.
Mayor Nikuyah Walker said in a statement that students should be able to attend school and not believe they will be policed for being children.
“Our public school system is an institution that mimics the prison-industrial complex rather than a safe space where students are able to unlock the jewels within their minds,” she said. “SROs are simply one element that highlights this fact. We must commit to the creation of a paradigm that replaces this current institution that has continuously failed Black children since desegregation.”
The school division highlighted in the release that school safety and wellness plans lean heavily on programs supporting mental health, intentional community-building, and a positive school climate.
Schools superintendent Rosa Atkins said she’s heard different perspectives on school resource officers.
“We’ve received emails from people wanting us to remove police from our schools, and we have talked with students and staff who express appreciation for the SROs they know and trust,” Atkins said in the statement. “Together through conversations with the School Board, staff, students, community, the police, and the City, we will find a new pathway for supporting the needs of our students and staff in the best way possible.”