Public Watchdog.org

Moving In The Right Direction – Albeit Too Slowly – On SRO Program

02.02.18

Contrary to the collective belief of our critics, we actually enjoy writing about our public officials doing good things, or at least not screwing up.

Today is one of those few days we get to do that.

The reason?

A Park Ridge Herald-Advocate article reports that three members of the Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 School Board are re-thinking their previous support for what appears to be a highly-suspect plan to put Park Ridge Police officers in both D-64 middle schools on a part-time basis in the guise of “School Resource Officers,” or “SRO”s. (“District 64 board members reconsider placing resource officers at middle schools,” Jan. 30).

Before you get your hopes up that this SRO idea is heading for the ash can, however, we must warn you that while Board vice-president Rick Biagi, member Fred Sanchez and member Eastman Tiu reportedly had this epiphany after reading the well-written 36-page “Report & Recommendations” (the “Report”) about SROs by the law firm of Ekl, Williams & Provenzale (the “EWP Report”), they remain one member short of a Board majority.

We encourage you to read the entire EWP Report so that you can appreciate just how impetuous the Board and Administration appears to have been in their rush to implement an SRO program that: (a) fails to reconcile or even properly consider the conflicting “police” and “educator” roles of the SRO and the nature of any SRO intervention; (b) lacks any specific training requirements for the SROs; (c) lacks not only some of the most basic data to justify adopting such a program but, perhaps more importantly, lacks any data collection plan on a going-forward basis by which to evaluate the program; and (d) lacks even a “Mission Statement” or “Memorandum of Understanding” identifying for the D-64 Administration, the PRPD, the parents of D-64 students and the taxpayers exactly what problems the SRO program is supposed to address.

If the motto of “This Old House” is “Measure twice, cut once,” D-64’s and the Police Department’s motto for the SRO program so far appears to be: “Put away that damned yardstick and pass the chain saw!”

Since the Board previously voiced unanimous support for the SRO program, we can only wonder whether members Mark Eggemann and Larry Ryles might still be drinking the SRO Kool-Aid. But no guessing is necessary for Board president Tony “Who’s The Boss?” Borrelli and Board secretary “Tilted Kilt Tommy” Sotos, whose comments as reported in the H-A article suggest they both are on their second Big Gulp.

Borrelli, the sock-puppet of Supt. Laurie “I’m The Boss!” Heinz, continues to laud the SRO pilot program as having “a lot of merit”– without explaining exactly what that alleged “merit” consists of, other than 8-10 hours per week (out of approximately 35 school hours per week) of soft duty in a clean, well-lighted place for whatever police officers are lucky enough to get it.

And Sotos? He still “really support[s] the SRO program” – for reasons also not explained in the H-A article or that can be ascertained from watching the SRO portion of the January 22, 2018 Board meeting video.

But if you think you can tolerate more spun saccharine than you’d find in a cotton candy factory, read the SRO program’s eight “objectives” on page 2 of Heinz’s SRO memo for the D-64 Board’s January 22, 2018 meeting and then ask yourself: “How are they going to measure whether, and to what degree, any of those objectives have been achieved?”

If you answered “by using unverifiable warm-and-fuzzy anecdotes,” you’re a winner.

After reading the EWP Report we still have the same questions and objections we raised in our o8.31.2017 and 12.29.2017 posts, starting with: Is there really a need for stationing police officers in our schools – officers who are bound by oath to enforce child pornography (e.g., sexting-by-minors) laws, drug and underage alcohol laws, and underage smoking/vaping laws – but expecting them to behave like glorified counselors or home-room teachers?

Unfortunately, the three newly-enlightened Board members don’t yet appear quite ready to call for an end to further time-wasting discussions of the misbegotten SRO program even though it becomes clearer and clearer that (as we wrote in that 12.29.2017 post) “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” – especially when D-64 needs to create distractions from things like test scores and other measures of academic achievement (like ratings and rankings) which suggest that the teaching and administrating being done is neither worth its high cost nor competitive with the schools in comparable communities:

“What do you mean our academics aren’t as good as they should be? Look at that wonderful million-dollar secured vestibule…and let me introduce you to our new SRO.”

According to Pages 7-8 of the EWP Report: “[T]here is no data that correlates the presence of an SRO to a reduction in…[shooting] incidents” or “to lower instances of weapons, drugs and violence within a school….”

So instead of wasting more time, effort and money on an unnecessary SRO program, the D-64 Board should focus on improving the quality of the expensive education provided to its students, and especially those special needs students whose treatment by the Administration has sparked what seems to be justifiable concern, if not outrage.

If D-64 middle-school students – basically 13 and 14 year olds – can’t reasonably be controlled by the teachers and administrators during school hours, that’s a failure of the teachers and administrators; and a failure of the students’ parents.

Let’s not compound those failures with s half-baked, wrong-headed SRO program.

To read or post comments, click on title.

11 comments so far

This SRO idea is dumb. If your kid is getting bullied, teach him to stand up for himself instead of being some other kid’s punching bag. Just ask Joe Kennedy III. If the teachers can’t maintain order in the classroom or the hallways, hire a dean of discipline, preferably a former Green Beret or SEAL, and let him/her take care of it.

You cannot expect teachers and administrators to police the schools.

EDITOR’S NOTE: And the reason for that is…?

The inadequacy of the IGA is stunning. Had there not been so much public attention and uproar, this program would almost certainly already be in place, with a **terrible** IGA. Heinz & the district continue to push the argument that the SRO is just about “social emotional learning” and will not enforce school rules / discipline. Worth noting that the Naperville SRO guidelines said the same thing regarding Admin being in charge of discipline. All that means is that admin make the final decisions — not that the officer can’t question and confront students (or in the Naperville case, interviewing and intimidating a student without parents being notified first). Let’s leave the guidance counseling and co-teaching to education professionals who are trained to do those jobs, and leave the law enforcement to officers trained to enforce laws.

If kids act up and teachers can’t handle them, call the police. Not an SRO, but the real police who will arrest them.

Seriously, people, assault and drug dealing are crimes, not simple misbehavior. Stop coddling these brats.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Can we assume that by “assault” you mean bullying? We’ve heard rumors of pot-selling at the middle schools which, if true, is more than a mere disciplinary problem.

Each school should designate one of its many administrators as “Dean of Discipline” to handle all disciplinary issues, including bullying. And then that dean should institute a program of after-school detention for misbehavior that requires a parent to come in and retrieve his/her own kid from detention.

And if that does not work, the suspensions should be fast and furious until the kid shapes up or ships out.

EDITOR”S NOTE: We think your “Dean of Discipline” idea sounds a lot better than the SRO program, assuming there is anybody in each of those middle schools – or in D-64 as a whole – that has the temperament and spine to do the job. From what we’ve seen and heard so far, that might explain the existing problem.

Ahh I see…

1. They are all overpaid.
2. They only work 8 months a year.

and now….

3. None of them have spines!!

God you are a piece of work!!

EDITOR’S NOTE:

1. Yes, and significantly so, given how few days/year they work AND their Cadillac pensions that most of them can start drawing several years earlier than their private-sector counterparts – which is why we described a D-64 teaching position as maybe the best job in Park Ridge in our 08.02.2016 post: https://www.publicwatchdog.org/archives/2016/08/02/is-teaching-in-d-64-schools-the-best-job-in-park-ridge/

2. The current PREA contract requires them to work a maximum of 185 days (37 work weeks) per year, not counting the 13 sick and personal days they start with which can reduce their maximum days to 172 (34+ work weeks) and can reduce that down to 167 days (33+ work weeks) with 5 years of experience – or just 1-week-and-change above 8 months.

3. If you know of any D-64 middle-school teachers and administrators who have demonstrated a spine sufficient to maintain order in the school (or individual classroom) or administer real discipline, you’d be doing the D-64 Board and Administration, as well as the D-64 parents and taxpayers, a real service in identifying them.

Nah, just a piece of work-in-progress.

Anonymous 2/4 @ 10:42 pm & 2/5 @ 7:54 am – you are both far too logical and make far too much sense. D64 would never think of these options! Seems to me that there are counselors in the middle schools that supposedly have had some training to deal with disciplinary issues, what have they been doing? ERGH!!!!

Park Ridge’s two Catholic schools do not (to my knowledge, anyway) have SROs in their middle school wings. St. Andrews does not. So what makes Lincoln and Emerson in need of SROs besides teachers and administrators who have lost control of their students, and a police chief who wants to play public relations?

This is Park Ridge for goodness sake. This isn’t Chicago. The majority of residents have two parent homes, so if a kid doesn’t behave you bring the parents into the conversation. What a waste of resources and time. This was ill conceived and based on what if scenarios.

Look, I realize many are against this but 3:24, do you have google??

https://www.cityoflakeforest.com/city-services/police/student-resource-officers/

I think it is fair to say that Lake Forest is mainly two parent homes…..for goodness sake!

Just because others do it does not make it right (as my mother used to tell me). I am glad the board is revisiting the issue but let’s not pretend this was pulled out of the air by the board, admin or the police. SRO’s are all over the place. I saw an article from Troy Ohio about SRO’s….Troy Ohio!

EDITOR’S NOTE: We don’t hear anybody saying the SRO concept “was pulled out of the air.” To the contrary, one of the most consistent arguments FOR the program is that other schools are doing it – which the Park Ridge Police Department, the Niles Police Department, and the D-64 Administration are now able to sing in three-part harmony.

Absolutely agree with 2/6 3:24 comment. Which parent in PR is saying we need an SRO? NONE! The Board would be making a HUGE mistake if they even think about going forward with this ill-conceived and unnecessary “solution” to a problem that doesn’t exist.

If the police chief wants to improve community relations, schedule periodic assemblies with the schools to encourage lines of communication with students to report any serious concerns (drugs, weapons, etc.) No need for an officer with a gun walking the halls unless they are CALLED for a serious conflict or concern.

Regarding bullying, I would prefer more guidance counselors and/or social workers. Let’s focus our efforts on preventing kids from getting into trouble in the first place. Even if someone was bullying my own kid, I would want a teacher, counselor or parent being involved, not police. ESPECIALLY in middle school.

Does anyone know how the SRO’s are doing in the PR high schools? Have there been any incidents?

EDITOR’S NOTE: According to the Jan. 30, 2018 article in the H-A to which we referred in our Feb. 2 post:

“Park Ridge Police Chief Frank Kaminski told the board that he found it ‘disturbing’ that anyone would suggest that the school resource officers would harm District 64 students. The school resource officer program at Maine East and Maine South high schools have been a success, he said.”

We have neither seen nor heard of any actual DATA that would support Chief K’s “success” claim, however.



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