Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski held a news conference at West High School on Tuesday to announce a new contract between the city, its police department and its school district that outlines the role of School Resource Officers on district campuses.
“Our hope is that this agreement will ensure the welfare of all students, while improving school atmosphere through better relationships, communications and cooperation between school leaders and police,” Biskupski said. The goal, she added, is that the deal will identify which disciplinary actions will be handled by teachers and administrations, and which will be dealt with by the cops. “There is a difference between a student and a cell phone in the classroom, and a student with a weapon in the classroom,” she said.
The pact is based on years’ worth of conversations about improved training, cooperation and compliance with legislation that lawmakers passed in 2016. It includes training for school officers; an oversight committee that will publish an annual report that breaks down diversions, arrests and interventions; a definition of which student records and videos SROs have access to; and an equalized placement of officers at all middle and high schools, rather than letting school enrollment data dictate where to station the police.
“The contract creates equity across our city, especially for historically marginalized students,” Biskupski said. “To break a pattern of inequity, we must ensure school officers are in every school, not just those with certain characteristics.”
The legislation’s sponsor, Rep. Sandra Hollins, D-Salt Lake City, delivered a short address on how this agreement could dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline. “This is an important step to avoid criminalizing students, and to help all of our students succeed,” she said, reminding the crowd that young people who experience disciplinary problems at schools resulting in suspensions or negative interactions with police, are more likely to drop out and become incarcerated in adulthood. “This is a step in the right direction, and preventing students from heading in that direction, and improving the school climate by building better relationships and better communication among all parties.”