Lincoln Public Schools and city officials held a community engagement session Thursday evening to gather feedback and suggestions regarding the proposed evaluation process for the School Resource Officer (SRO) program.
The 25-some people who attended and participated in the engagement process were asked to discuss four specific questions:
LPS and city staff will gather all the comments from Thursday, as well as online comments and suggestions from other contacts, and consider changes to the draft evaluation process based on that feedback. A final evaluation plan will be submitted to the Safe and Successful Kids Interlocal Board for its approval in the spring of 2019.
The proposed evaluation process can be seen at: lincoln.ne.gov (keyword: sskib), and citizens can continue to submit comments online at the same link.
Earlier this year, the city and school district approved the Safe and Successful Kids Interlocal agreement, which funded a series of measures focused on increasing school safety and student success. The agreement also included the addition of School Resource Officers, specialized law enforcement officers assigned to LPS schools. Six SROs currently work in the six LPS high schools, and six additional officers will be added in November to cover middle schools. The Safe and Successful Kids Interlocal Board is overseeing the development of the SRO program evaluation process, which focus on six measurable goals for evaluating the program.
Thursday, LPS and the city of Lincoln sought public feedback on the evaluation criteria for the SRO program – asking the community to help figure out the best way to measure the impact the SRO program has on children and families.
Lanny Boswell, a member of the Lincoln Board of Education, and chair of the Interlocal Board, addressed participants Thursday: “We are here this evening to talk about one particular issue, and it’s an important issue: How do we measure success? More specifically, how do we measure the success of the School Resource Officer program, a joint City-LPS initiative that places 12 LPD police officers in our high schools and middle schools across the community?”
Bennie Shobe, chair of the Lincoln City Council and vice chair of the Safe and Successful Kids Board, explained that LPS and the city were charged with developing a way to measure the success of the SRO program. “And that is why we are here this evening—to talk about what data we should be collecting as a community.”
Jeff Bliemeister, police chief for Lincoln Police, offered background about the SRO program: “Lincoln Police officers have partnered with Lincoln Public Schools since 1971. The number of officers assigned to schools and their specific roles have varied over the last 47 years, but the philosophy of the school resource officer has always included three steadfast elements: First, a focus on maintaining open lines of communication with students, parents and staff. Second, an emphasis on building relationships in advance of unthinkable events. Third, connecting with students inside and outside of the classroom, and in general, serving as a positive influence.
School Resource Officers (or SROs) are elite officers whom we have assigned through a highly competitive selection process. Candidates for the position of SRO must demonstrate not only their aptitude as a police officer, but also their ability to communicate and interact with kids, their community involvement, and their commitment to youth development. In addition, LPS school administrators provide input to LPD about SRO candidates.
In short, those who earn the opportunity to serve as SROs are veteran officers who display a passion to serve and protect our children. But passion isn’t enough. We also require our SROs to complete extensive training. Selected candidates complete training from the National Association of School Resource Officers, with an emphasis on the topic of “Policing the Teen Brain.” In partnership with Region V Systems of Health, SROs receive an additional forty hours of Behavioral Health Assessment Training. Per our General Orders, SROs (as well as all Lincoln police officers) also complete annual mandatory training concerning implicit bias, cultural competency and de-escalation.”
In addition to the feedback session, the Interlocal Board has five regular public meetings a year. Board members are Mayor Chris Beutler, City Council members Cyndi Lamm and Bennie Shobe, and Lincoln Board of Education members Lanny Boswell, Kathy Danek and Connie Duncan. For meeting dates, agendas and more information on the Safe and Successful Kids Interlocal Board, visit lincoln.ne.gov (keyword sskib).