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Desert Hot Springs City Council unanimously approves school resource officer contract

The Desert Hot Springs City Council unanimously approved a contract with the police department for a school resource officer at its high school.

The contract will now move to the Palm Springs Unified School District board of education. If the board approves it, then SROs will return to Desert Hot Springs High School's campus.

PSUSD will pay DHSPD $112,234.20 to have an SRO on campus.

Councilmembers criticized PSUSD's handling of the situation and the decisions leading up to the removal of SROs at the start of the school year.

"The school district has really screwed up on this one and we're going to have to do a lot of work with them to bring things back up to standard," said Councilmember Gary Gardner.

"Shame on the district. You're the only agency that hasn't shown up for negotiations," said DHS Mayor Scott Matas.

Councilmembers also voiced their displeasure at the lack of district representatives on hand for Tuesday's meeting.

"... you're not gonna have anyone up here to answer questions? I have a problem," said Councilmember Jan Pye.

Pye said that the was a district representative who told her that they would be at the meeting, however, did not show. In a statement following the meeting, PSUSD Superintendent Dr. Mike Swize wrote that the district was not asked to have someone in attendance to answer questions.

"We are pleased that tonight the DHS City Council has approved a revised agreement for a School Resource Officer to return to the DHSHS campus. We are looking forward to having the SRO back at Desert Hot Springs High school very soon.

Given that we have been working on this agreement with the City for quite some time, we didn't anticipate that there would be additional questions.  However, had we been asked to have someone from the district in attendance to answer questions, we certainly would have done that.

Last night at the Town Hall meeting, both the DHS Police Department and PSUSD administrators reassured parents that we are working together to address the concerns expressed regarding student behavior and safety. We are committed to that collaboration, and the SRO assigned to DHSHS will be an integral part of that team."

- Supt. of Schools Dr. Mike Swize

Student safety at Desert Hot Springs High School has been a major concern for parents and community leaders following a string of violence since school returned. DHSPD Chief Jim Henson said police have had 117 calls for service at the high school since August.

On Monday, parents voiced their displeasure and concern over the situation at a town hall meeting hosted by Henson.

"We are in a situation where students are fearful and parents hesitate to send their kids to school," said DHS Mayor Scott Matas.

Two incidents in the last month were captured on video and widely circulated on social media.

In September, a student police said was armed with a knife was seen charging toward another student.

And last Wednesday, an all-out brawl broke out during the school day with dozens of students seen throwing punches.

The PSUSD board of education has already approved SRO contracts with the Cathedral City & Desert Hot Springs police departments & the Riverside County Sheriff's Department.

On Thursday, the Palm Springs City Council approved its SRO contract, however, council members requested a change in the source of funding for the program.

Stay with News Channel 3 for continuing updates.

Jesus Reyes

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