Champaign school board reviews police numbers
CHAMPAIGN – Police officers have been in Champaign's middle and high schools since the beginning of the year, but have they helped reduce discipline problems in the schools? The Champaign school board reviewed some data on the officers' activities at its Monday night meeting and talked about how it might evaluate whether the program is working.
Patricia Lewis, who is overseeing discipline for the district on an interim basis, said a report of the officers' activities in the first few months of the school year shows 245 incidents in the middle and high schools in which officers were involved with students. They resulted in 30 arrests. The most common types of incidents the officers dealt with were batteries and theft.
The data also showed physical confrontations had declined at the high schools but were up at the middle schools.
Lt. Joe Gallo of the Champaign police department, who oversees the school resource officers, said the program has had a successful start.
"I think the officers have had a significant impact on neighborhoods, particularly around Centennial High School," he said.
However, Gallo added, it's too soon to draw any conclusions from the data.
School board members discussed how they could use data on the school resource officers, provided by the police department, along with the district's data on discipline referrals to get a picture of what is going on in the schools. The two sets of numbers aren't the same, as not all incidents handled by the officers will result in discipline, and officers aren't involved in disciplinary matters, only in conduct that is illegal.
The board also talked about conducting a survey later this spring to analyze how teachers, staff and students feel about the atmosphere in the schools with police officers present.
The board did not vote on hiring an additional school resource officer, as it was scheduled to do. School board President Margie Skirvin said the decision will be postponed until later this spring because the district isn't far enough along in its budget process to know if it can afford to hire another officer.