The Palm Springs Unified School District has approved negotiations of law enforcement agreements with the cities of Desert Hot Springs, Cathedral City, Palm Springs, and Riverside County to bring back school resource officers. This process is fluid and the details have yet to be worked out.
During the meeting, it was discussed that PSUSD would like law enforcement to cover between 30% and 35% of the cost of the officer. Those details would have to be negotiated and agreed to by the partnering cities and the county.
We reached out to Desert Hot Springs Mayor Pro Tem Russell Betts to see how the city felt about covering 30% of the cost. Betts says he learned of the possible agreement by watching the news and says that he is unaware of the details as of yet.
Changes were also proposed to the memorandum of understandings in place, including training, defining the officer's roles as part of the overall support team -- and input on the selection process. Those MOU's still have to be approved by each law enforcement agency.
Discussions surrounding the role of school resource officers at the district have been going on, back to November 2019.
The district said SRO's could get standardized training through the National Association of School Resource Officers. The training would include how to handle mental health, trauma, and understand teen brain development.
Also, the agreement could include PSUSD staff being a part of the hiring of SRO's instead of just the police departments.
But emotions were running high as teachers and parents shared their views on this.
"I once had to call a security officer on a child because all other intervention had failed him. this security officer threw him against a wall threatened him with handcuffs i along with four other adults had a part in traumatizing this child so I vowed to myself never to be a part of traumatizing a student I chose to serve," said Veronica Munoz, a PSUSD teacher.
"This decision was irresponsible because it's ignorant to think that this will not spill into our schools. Violence can spill into the streets and vice versa," said Edith Duran, a PSUSD parent.
Another parent said, "I'm not in favor of the SRO's on campus. We have no data or stats to support them on our campuses. and the officers sometimes take action on school level violations that break rules but aren't criminal."
PSUSD parent Charlie Ervin said he wants restorative justice practices that lean into behavioral health and not so much law enforcement.
"Our superintendent has done their job, it's wonderful, it's good that they're meeting, you know, and taking the steps, but I think it was a little rushed on the decision," Ervin said. "We have to get outside in the community, those training programs and things like that are great. But if the kids don't feel safe with you, they won't open up with you, and they won't talk to you."
PSUSD parent Donna Nunez said she supports SRO's on campus.
"We need that extra support, you know, that help. Teachers can't do it all. You know, it's not fair. Students need to know that there's others, aside from teachers, you know, to welcome them in school and make them feel safe," said Nunez. "I am very satisfied, you know, that we're going forward. You know, time is of the essence, we got to move forward."
Meantime, additional staff will also be hired to include more social workers, school counselors, support personnel plus an increased mental health budget.
That will come at an increase of nearly $4 million dollars this year in the district's budget.
Contract agreements will be finalized and then brought to each city and the county for their approval.