RPS Superintendent proposes changes to SROs, vote to be held next week

RPS superintendent proposes changes to SROs, vote to be held next week
Posted at 11:41 AM, Sep 14, 2021

RICHMOND, Va. -- A lengthy Richmond School Board meeting on Monday evening ended with a postponed vote about the future of school resource officers.

In the summer of 2020, social justice movements put a spotlight on school resource and safety officers and if their presence in schools created an intimidating environment for vulnerable children.

The cry initially prompted a 90-day review and then a request by Richmond School Superintendent Jason Kamras to remove officers from schools.

However, after a year of feedback from students, parents and teachers and a lack of support from the school board, Kamras has softened his stance.

"Ultimately, I would like for us to be a good system that doesn't have police in schools, but I'm not sure we're ready for that just yet," Kamras said in a meeting Monday night.

Instead, Kamras is proposing that school resource and safety officers be referred to as Care and Safety Patrols, wear softer uniforms and have duties beyond patrolling the hallways.

"Look, I don't want to see any arrests of students on school groups, nothing good comes from that. Anything we can do to prevent that from happening. It's also why we're proposing a diversion program so that for non-violent offenses, kids don't get arrested, they go through the diversion program. Just want to do everything we can to avoid the school to prison pipeline," Kamras said.

While there were several public comments online in support of the new proposals, mixed emotions remained.

"Simply renaming SSO Care and Safety Associates is a poor substitute for the necessary work of envisioning and rebuilding to replace the harmful culture and practices perpetuated by both SSOs and SRO," Brionna Nomi with the Legal Aid Justice Center said at the meeting.

However, others said that without the officers in schools, vulnerable children could be negatively impacted.

"The reality is stuff from the community matriculates into the school and if you don't have SROs in the schools, you are not protecting a certain group of children," Keisha Cummings, a community activist, said.

The vote on Kamras' proposal has been postponed until next Monday.

Some school board members also said that they would like to work toward replacing police with community resource safety officers by the end of 2023.