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City hopes to bring back second school-resource officer

Original post made on May 25, 2013

With its financial picture brightening, Palo Alto is looking to bring back a school-resource officer position that was slashed several years ago as part of the City Council's broad budget-balancing effort.


Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, May 24, 2013, 3:44 PM

Comments (10)

Posted by soccer mom, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on May 25, 2013 at 9:44 am

What interesting priorities we have for spending "surplus" money supposedly in support of our children. The District has allocated $150,000 (plus benefits) for a Communications Officer and now the City is jumping to spend $165,000 for police on campus. Is there really a demonstrated crime problem on campus? Has there been an instance where the police have not come in a timely manner?

I don't think we need a spin doctor nor do we need to initiate a school-to-prison pipeline in Palo Alto. We do need improved counseling services, an on-line homework tool that is uniformly implemented, help with College Counseling and SAT prep, better school lunches, and resources and activities to support our children's social/emotional health.

I urge the PAUSD Board and City Council to go back to the design phase on this one. Please take the $300,000 + in your new found wealth and spend it on the priorities of your community and in the best interest of our children - not to pad the roster down at 25 Churchill or to put armed police on campus.


Posted by Mason, a resident of Gunn High School
on May 25, 2013 at 10:26 am

Soccer Mom,

You may want to learn more about the function and history of the School Resource Officer position in Palo Alto. It is not meant nor has their role ever been about being an occupying force on campus, or facilitating a pipeline from school to prison as you suggest.

For example, the school resource officers are heavily involved in the Parent Project, a highly touted program which the police and school district have partnered to deal with at-risk students and their families coping with a myriad of problems and issues.

Those officers develop close, positive relationships with students and faculty members, all working toward a collective best interest. Like officers everywhere, they wear many different hats including that of a mentor, counselor, and positive adult role model. Additionally, there are many social and legal realities that often time creep into our children's experience at school. That could involve domestic violence at home, drug use on campus, underage drinking, bullying, suicide intervention, etc. I believe, as do many others, that having an officer on campus with a true understanding and ownership will be in a much better position to cope with these realities of life. It certainly provides an extra layer of safety and peace of mind.

Again, I would encourage people to learn more about this valuable program before rushing to judgment as to their role or motivation. I fully support this move by the district.


Posted by soccer mom, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on May 25, 2013 at 7:27 pm

Mason,

The services you describe above mentor, counselor, substance abuse prevention, bullying and counseling are not best provided by the police department. There are a myriad of agencies which can better serve our children in this capacity including school counselors and Advisors. Mandatory reporting for child abuse can be done without police on campus.

Let's use the money to provide the services that Mason outlines in the post above without involving our children in the criminal justice system.

The latest planning survey undertaken by the District unsurprisingly gave our schools high marks for physical safety. Kids already feel safe at school. There is no need to fund a police presence on campus.


Posted by Bob, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 26, 2013 at 7:40 am

This is a massive waste of money. If the City adds a second resource officer, then the off-the-books expenditures for "schools" by the Palo Alto Police Department will be over $600,000 a year. In addition to the two so-called resource officers, the Police pay over $300K a year for the traffic-crossing guards. Additionally, every time there is a problem involving the schools and the police, then additional costs are involved.

It's difficult to find these charges lumped together in our yearly published budget. So, most people don't have any idea how much the City is spending on "the schools".

Moreover, because these resource officers are generally not involved in crime suppression (such as locker checks for illegal drugs and alcohol), but seem to be dealing with "at risk" kids, and their families, then all of their work would seem to be not subject to public scrutiny. We have no idea what these officers are doing, on an hout-by-hour basis, or a week-by-week basis. We have no idea how successful they are, or if there is any real value to their assignments.

With all of the peripheral costs of maintaining a police officer, the actual costs plus pension-related costs will push the expense to the City's taxpayers to well-over $250K a year. This is a lot of money to be told that "you can't know what this officer is doing".

Police officers are not social workers. We hire them to enforce the law, not re-engineer wayward children's lives. It's one thing to put an officer in a school to deal with crime--but quite another to make people "feel good".

Let's hope the City Council does not fund this proposal.


Posted by Agree with soccer mom, a resident of Barron Park
on May 26, 2013 at 8:20 am

I agree with soccer mom and Bob. I have seen several incidents in the high schools in which a discipline situation turned into a police matter, with long-term consequences for the students involved that were out of proportion to the "offense". If we want a social worker in the school, let's do that. Let's not put law enforcement officers into the schools and pretend that they are social workers.
I am also bothered by the way that the City and the school district are budgeting their increased revenues, basically by treating it as free money that they can spend on someone's pet idea without a comprehensive look at what is actually needed. The fact that an idea popped into Nancy Shepherd's head is one thing (in fact, that may be the real news story here), but that doesn't mean it should translate into a line in a budget. Same thing with the school district's PR flack.


Posted by classified, a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 26, 2013 at 8:52 am

About PAUSD priorities - It may be good time to look into the classified employees compensation. Many times most of our modest compensation is allocated for health insurance. Only those who work more than 20 hours per week can pay for health insurance, paying has to be prorated per % of partial work. Many of us noticed in previous years positions that were divided to 2 smaller part time, health insurance could not be even prorated. I heard that until several years ago classified benefits were very different - by far better. Some of us are the closest to the children. I think it is better for all that all employees feel that their health and well being is appreciated. I am writing now, since financial situation seemed to be improving.


Posted by resident, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 26, 2013 at 9:45 am

Bob,

I agree that the totality of city money going to the schools should be looked at more carefully. But it may be that the City does not spend enough on the schools. The schools contribute to the gush in city revenues, and money going to the schools should not be looked just as an expense, but as an investment.

Safety issues in schools have changed. Bullying, cybebullying, (alcohol fueled) rape - these can literally kill, as reported in countless headlines this past year. Printed school policies are nice (like academic honesty), but sometimes you need practical help to investigate incidents, be a resource to desperate students, and to focus on prevention.

This being said, 165,000,000 is a huge chunk of money (probably more than what a Principal or teachers make), so what we get for it will have to be absolutely necessary.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 26, 2013 at 9:53 am

Policing school functions e.g. football games, dances, etc. are important. The fact that the police are seen to be there is the important thing not that they are doing anything.

Community policing is a good thing. If police officers are seen to be in the community, are known to the kids (of all ages) is a good thing. A few years ago they were giving out trading cards to the kids. Even good kids look on police officers as people to be wary of, rather than people who can help them when they need help. Seeing them interact individually with our kids must be a good thing.


Posted by sara, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 26, 2013 at 2:55 pm

Don't forget to fill out the PAUSD Superintendent survey - it's due by June 4. Pass it on!!!

here's the link
Web Link


Posted by Resident, a resident of Midtown
on May 28, 2013 at 11:53 am

I couldn't be more solidly in agreeing with Soccer Mom. What a colossal
waste of the exorbitant tax revenues. Having recently moved here , it's heartbreaking to see what our school kids do without in contrast to middle class suburban kids back east.
Fundraising for schools is a half-time job in these parts which doesn't exactly
help pay our ginormous tax bill. The blatant mismanagement is disappointing.


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