Public Watchdog.org

SROs May Be More Problem Than Solution

12.29.17

There was a time when the term “SRO” commonly meant “Single Room Occupancy.” As in cheap hotels, a/k/a “flophouses.” Or “Standing Room Only” at concerts and sporting events.

Nowadays, however, in suburbs like Park Ridge the term SRO means “School Resource Officer.” Or, as we noted in our August 31, 2017 post, modern-day “Officer Krupke”s from “West Side Story” – a post we encourage you to read so that we don’t have to recount the problems with the whole SRO goat rodeo we previously identified.

From the perspective of taxpayers who see a District rife with neglected buildings and a recent history of suspect educational achievement, spending the money it will take to stick a revolving core of Officer Krupkes in each of the District’s two middle schools for 8-10 hours a week makes about as much sense as the millions it is spending on not-really-secure vestibules.

None whatsoever.

But we were alerted by one of our stringers to a post on Kathy (Panattoni) Meade’s Park Ridge Concerned Homeowners Group Facebook page – by Ginger Pennington – raising questions about the very concept of an SRO program in the light of the suicide earlier this year of a 16-year old Naperville North honor-roll student hours after being confronted by two school deans and a Naperville Police Dept. SRO about his cellphone audiotape of himself and a female classmate having a consensual sexual encounter.

Also on his cellphone: Photos of other partially nude girls and videos, according to Associated Press accounts.

The SRO reportedly told the teen that his cellphone contained what may be illegal “child pornography” that could result in his criminal prosecution and, if convicted, the requirement of registering as a sex offender. As we understand it, that’s a pretty accurate statement of the current law. The SRO reportedly also told the teen that the matter could be kept out of court if the teen cooperated.

After a reported 20-minute interview, the teen was told to wait in the student-services office until his mother arrived. But before she arrived her son left the school, walked up a nearby parking deck ramp to the fifth level, and jumped to his death – less than 3 hours after he had been called to the dean’s office.

Tragic? Absolutely. A needlessly permanent solution to a temporary problem, as youth suicides are so often described.

The result of legally-actionable misconduct by the school administrators and/or the SRO?

Yes, say the parents of the teen in their $5 million suit against the District in DuPage County Circuit Court – in which they allege that administrators ignored Illinois law requiring them to attempt to notify a student’s parents before conducting interviews such as the one in question.

The Naperville school district reportedly disagrees, but we’re betting a settlement is achieved before the district’s actual legal duties and possible breaches thereof ever go to a jury.

How does that play into the D-64 SRO narrative and Ms. Pennington’s concerns?

We’re not exactly sure.

But it’s got to be more than a coincidence that a December 22, 2017 Park Ridge Herald-Advocate story (“Second law firm to evaluate rules for officers to be stationed at District 64 middle schools”) reports that D-64 has paid the Lisle law firm of Ekl, Williams and Provenzale $2,500 to suggest revisions to the proposed SRO intergovernmental agreement between D-64 and the Village of Niles (for the SRO at Emerson Middle School), and between D-64 and the City of Park Ridge (for the SRO at Lincoln Middle School).

That’s the same law firm, led by prominent former DuPage County prosecutor Terry Ekl – who, back in 2008, was paid $75,000 to author the “Ekl Report” about problems in the Park Ridge Police Dept. under former chief Jeff Caudill – that is representing the parents of the Naperville student in their lawsuit.

There actually may be something worthwhile in the D-64 Board’s obtaining legal advice on such a significant issue from both specialized school district attorneys (such as the Board’s regular legal counsel) and from attorneys looking to blow holes in the school district attorneys’ arguments.

But the real problem here, as we noted in our August 31, 2017 post, is the whole notion of bringing SROs – police officers sworn to enforce child pornography laws, drug and alcohol laws, and smoking/vaping laws – into schools with the expectation that they will act like school administrators rather than law enforcement officers.

What research we’ve been able to do suggests that the benefits of SROs in school districts such as ours are anecdotal, at best. Yet Supt. Laurie “I’m the Boss!” Heinz reportedly has presented the idea as a clear and unqualified win/win for the District and the Police Department. That’s problematic.

It becomes even more problematic where, as we understand it, the real reason the SROs are being brought in is because the teachers and/or administrators at those schools aren’t willing or capable of maintaining order and discipline when left to their own devices.

Instead of “Officer Krupke,” maybe D-64 should be looking for no-nonsense coaches, teachers and administrators like the legendary Paterson (NJ) principal Joe (“Lean on Me”) Clark, Kristyn (“No-Nonsense Nurturing”) Klei Borrero, Richmond (CA) coach Ken (“Coach Carter”) Carter and St. Petersburg (FL) principal Nikita Reed.

Or anybody – other than sworn law enforcement officers – who won’t be terrified and intimidated by incorrigible 13-year old suburban punks.

To read or post comments, click on title.

10 comments so far

We’ve got teachers making $100K a year and administrators tens of thousands of dollars north of that. Why can’t they keep order in their schools?

And how can a cop, oath-bound to enforce the laws, turn a blind eye to the kid who has baggies of pot in his backpack, or a knife, or vape devices, or upskirt photos of classmates on his iPhone?

EDITOR’S NOTE: That’s a good question, one for which we have not heard a satisfactory explanation.

Who the hell came up with the idea of putting cops in schools????? Has Park Ridge turned into Lawndale and we didn’t get the memo?

I no longer have kids in the schools, but if I were a parent I wouldn’t stand for this.

RE Anonymous on 12.30.17 11:42 am, agreed. You don’t need cops to discipline or expel the troublemakers

Let’s not forget that this SRO program is not just the creation of the D64 administration but also of the Park Ridge and Niles police chiefs. This seems to be more of a propaganda ploy than anything else.

Is this the latest Edu-trend? Seems like an unnecessary use of manpower to me and a very bad idea.

so you are accusing our police chief of a ploy to information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view???”

Can you please elaborate? What position or point of view they trying to promote and to what end?

2017/12/31 at 10:48 am here, addressing anon on 12.31.17 3:17 pm. Yes, that’s exactly what I’m doing.

Why is he doing it? Because his force has been unable to deal with Park Ridge youth so he is happy to sign onto anything that might improve the police dept’s image with kids and their parents, even if it is through some bogus “officer friendly” program like the SRO program.

Unable to deal with Park Ridge youth?? Sorry but you are going to have to flesh that out. Perhaps we live in different worlds within the same city. My experience in PR with D64 and D207 as well as a variety of organizations and events where PR youth are present does not indicate that PR youth is out of control or “not being dealt with”. While there have been some blow ups from time to time (the incident in the park during TOPR for example) they are less in number than my youth or than experiences from relatives and friends in places such as Burr Ridge, Deerfield and highland Park.

2017/12/31 at 10:48 am and 12.31.17 7:40 pm here.

I did not say that PR youth are “out of control.” The “blow up” you cited (at Hinkley during TOPR 2014) is one of the more dramatic examples, as is the cop who punched out the teenager handcuffed in the back of a squad car, but there have been many others involving kids in the parks after hours, kids taking over sidewalks in Uptown, etc.

Whether they are “less in number” than in your “youth” or elsewhere, I can’t say. But in the Herald Advocate article from August 29, both Chief Kaminski and the Niles Cmdr. talked about building relationships and trust between cops and youth. In other words, it’s an “officer friendly” public relations program that I labeled a “propaganda ploy.”

10:14:

I am not surprised that the Chief would talk about building relationships/trust with youth. I would guess that is a part of the whole community policing strategy that he supports. I am still confused about your choice of propaganda ploy. The definition of propaganda includes words like “biased” and “misleading”. One definition of ploy is….”a cunning plan or action designed to turn a situation to one’s own advantage”. I just do not see how these words describe the role of the chief or the role of the police in general in the topic of this thread. Oh well, Happy 2018 to you!



Leave a comment
Line and paragraph breaks automatic, e-mail address never displayed, HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>