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Helena schools leaders ready for discussions on school resource officers

Posted at 8:27 PM, Jun 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-01 11:05:53-04

HELENA — Leaders with the Helena School District say they are looking forward to being part of discussions about whether there should be changes in the School Resource Officer Program.

During Monday night’s Helena City Commission meeting, commissioners voted to hold off on spending almost $300,000 from the Helena Police Department budget until after a city review of police operations. The decision came as some members of the public called for removing school resource officers from Helena schools.

Currently, HPD provides four uniformed officers to the district. They are based at Helena and Capital High Schools and Helena and C.R. Anderson Middle Schools, but Helena Public Schools Superintendent Tyler Ream said they also cover the elementary school campuses within city limits.

During Monday’s commission meeting, those calling for the elimination of school resource officers argued having police in schools would not make students safer and that the money spent on the program could be better directed other places.

Ream said he believes SROs do help provide general safety on campus, but that they also work proactively, building relationships with students. He said the district is willing to look at other models, but that they want to know how the resources will be redirected.

“I welcome the discussion, but on the other side of it, I really want to know what the plan is, so that our students, our teachers, our families, aren’t losing valuable resources that they need to keep our schools safe physically and emotionally,” he said.

The city of Helena announced it would hold a review on HPD policies and procedures earlier this month, in light of nationwide calls for policing reform after the death of George Floyd. The first community discussion has been set for Thursday, July 9, from 4 to 7 p.m.