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Discussion over school resource officers in South Bend schools

Published: Nov. 16, 2021 at 11:55 PM EST
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - The City of South Bend hopes to move forward with the School Resource Officer program in South Bend schools.

People attend a town hall at Riley High School Tuesday night to give their input on the program.

“Let’s move this program forward and how to work with the schools and the city together to make that happen,” said Mayor James Mueller.

In an updated memorandum of understanding, school resource officers (SRO’s) would remain in schools.

“Student’s safety is our top priority; and this clarifies a relationship between the police department and the schools and who manages what,” said Superintendent of the South Bend Community School Corporation Dr. Todd Cummings.

Officers would receive specific training on implicit bias, school law and the impact of trauma on child development.

“Our priority number one is to help anybody, specifically students in any of the schools when we have SRO’s in them....police officers in the schools. We are human beings and neighbors first and uniforms secondary,” said Scott Ruszkowski, Chief of the South Bend Police Department.

The document states SRO’s would not “enforce school disciplinary measures” and would not be able to “transport students in Police Department vehicles except when students are victims of a crime, under arrest, or some other child welfare, safety or emergency circumstances exist...”

“Very descriptive details of the job, expectations and duties of an SRO. What they can and can’t, or should and shouldn’t do. Those are laid out. Those weren’t really laid out before,” said Ruszkowski.

However, some said officers have no place in school settings.

“Let’s invest in what works. What works is positive behavior interventions, restorative justice, more support for kids in the way of social workers and counselors...I’m encouraged by having this meeting tonight. At least the issue is on the table. The important thing is that we are connecting as a community,” said community activist Regina Williams-Preston

The memorandum of understanding goes in front of the school board on December 6.

If it passes, the city and school corporation would split the cost down the middle.

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