Board keeps school officers for another year
CHAMPAIGN — Champaign police officers will continue to work in Unit 4 schools for at least another year.
The Champaign school board voted 5-1 Monday night to renew an agreement with the city to extend the School Resource Officer program at the district's high schools and middle schools through June 30, 2015.
"It's not a school issue. It's not a black issue. It's not a white issue. It's a community issue," said school board President Laurie Bonnett. "We have an opportunity here to do something good."
Kerris Lee was the only school board member to vote against the renewal, saying, "I do not believe that this is the most efficient way to use our money."
Board member Jamar Brown said he didn't "really care for a police officer in our schools" but voted in favor of the motion anyway.
"I do see a decline in the numbers (of incidents)," he said. "There is something fundamentally changing."
The contract extension keeps SRO staffing at five officers, including one each at Centennial and Central high schools and Edison, Frankilin and Jefferson middle schools.
The city pays for three salaries, and the district pays for the other two. The village of Savoy also contributes money to the program.
The 2014-15 cost to the school district will be $291,769.
More than a dozen people spoke passionately about the program during Monday night's public comment period.
Argued retired Champaign police officer Richard Adkins: "Any one of the officers would give their lives to protect the students in their building."
Asked local Pastor Angel Johnson: "Is it even legal for a police officer to question a student?"
Orlando Thomas, Unit 4's director of achievement and student services, responded to concerns about the SRO program's role in 21 student arrests last school year.
"Of the 21 arrested during the school year, six of those arrests were based on warrants issued by a judge," Thomas said. "In addition, 11 of those students were also brought forward for expulsion by the school board."
Added Brown: "In these 21 cases, those 21 kids would still be arrested, whether there was an officer at school or not."