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Poudre School District votes to keep police officers at schools

School board voted 6-1 Tuesday night
Poudre High School
Fort Collins Police Services
Posted at 9:31 AM, May 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-11 22:42:10-04

The Poudre School District Board of Education made a decision Tuesday night on whether school resource officers (SRO) will remain in schools.

In a 6-1 vote, the board voted to move ahead with contract negotiations to keep SROs in school.

SROs have become more controversial amid concerns that students of color are disproportionately disciplined, fueling a “school-to-prison pipeline.”

Denver Public Schools voted in July 2020 to end its contract with the Denver Police Department for school resource officers.

In the Poudre School District, a community advisory council was tasked with coming up with a recommendation on whether or not to renew the district’s contract with the Fort Collins Police Department for 14 school resource officers. Eleven out of 15 members of the council recommended removing SROs from schools.

Some parents who support SROs planned to rally before Tuesday night’s school board meeting. Parent Natalie Niemeyer said she worries schools won’t be as safe if officers aren’t in the buildings to respond to threats. She said Fort Collins Police have already been told to make changes to their procedures.

“This program is in place to help these kids, to get them on the right path and to make the right decisions — not to put them in the court system,” Niemeyer said.

Other community members have urged the board to remove police from schools, saying students of color in Poudre Schools feel they’ve been targeted, bullied and harassed.

Fort Collins Police Chief Jeff Swoboda said he is open to continued conversations on how to improve the program and says he has respected the process the school board has gone through.

"We’ve been listening, we’ve been talking about what should our officers wear? When should they get involved in things? But just the reaction of saying let's pull out all police officers from schools, in my opinion, is a bad decision and actually leaves our schools less safe," Swoboda said.

Ray Black, who has a daughter in the district, said the money spent on officers could be diverted to other programs instead.

"Our teachers are tasked to do so much. Then why aren’t we giving them more resources and spending that money into law enforcement and police officers in schools?" said Black.

Black also said officers aren’t needed to resolve disciplinary issues and can be called if needed.

If the school board had voted to remove SROs, they could have been replaced with police liaisons who would be stationed near schools.

Swoboda said it is important to hear from all members of the community, even if they'd like to see SROs leave schools.

"We work for the community, we work for the parents who have children in school so if they have ideas on how we can improve and improving that relationship, we’re all ears and we’re partners in that space," Swoboda said.