BELOIT—The Beloit School Board will be discussing how to best include public input as the board decides whether to continue with school resource officers (SROs) in the district. Its current contract with the officers is set to expire on July 31, 2022.
With the contract getting closer to expiration, Board President Megan Miller said the board wants to talk about how to best gather public input on the issue. Miller said she is undecided at the moment as to whether SROs should continue in their role.
“I need to get more information from the city and administration,” she said.
The meeting is set for the regular board meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Kolak Education Center, 1500 Fourth St.
The district may hold community listening sessions on the issue to gather public input, according to information in online board documents.
There are three SROs that the City of Beloit Police Department provides to the School District of Beloit. According to the Memorandum of Understanding between the Beloit Police Department and the School District of Beloit, the SRO program is costing the district $267,178 for the 2021-2022 school year alone. The 4-year contract is set to expire after the 2021-2022 school year.
In an interview in July of 2020 former Beloit Police Chief David Zibolski said he hadn’t changed his views on the School Resource Officer program in the School District of Beloit despite calls to eliminate the programs in other cities.
The issue came up nationwide following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, who died in police custody. School districts in Milwaukee, Chicago, Seattle and elsewhere decided to end contracts with local police departments for SROs. In the July 2020 interview, Zibolski said the program in Beloit has been run well and with positive feedback from the school district.
In the interview, Zibolski and Sgt. Jamie Linder, who oversees the SROs covering the intermediate schools and high school, presented to representatives of the Beloit NAACP, the League of Women Voters and others.
The relationship building they do with students, they said, not only helps students emotionally, but can help prevent crime and promote police recruitment opportunities in the future and the majority of contact SROs have with students are not enforcement related.
In the earlier interview, Zibolski said having an SRO allows for immediate law enforcement response when needed. If SROs weren’t in the schools, police would still get calls and an officer who may not have the same level of training as an SRO would respond.
Prior to the Milwaukee Public Schools board unanimously voting to end its contract with the police to provide SROs, the board had received a letter from the ACLU of Wisconsin supporting the contract termination and the development of a plan to reallocate funding to better meet student needs such as by providing more counselors. The ACLU’s 2019 report, “Cops and No Counselors,” stated Black students in Wisconsin are much more likely than white students to be arrested in schools.