URBANA — Despite several more residents speaking out against a proposal to add a police officer to Urbana High School and another at Urbana Middle School, the Urbana city council approved it.
The council voted 6-1 in favor of the amended agreement, with Ward 7 Alderman Jared Miller voting no and saying he was frustrated with the process.
“We’re not being given a lot of specifics, a lot of timelines, a lot of things that I’ve seen in matters that I would consider not as important as this,” Miller said
Fourteen people spoke at Monday’s meeting, including 10 against the agreement and three in favor of it.
Stuart Levy spoke against the agreement: if you’re trying to add structure in the schools, “you don’t want to bring in people that the students in the school are going to be afraid of.”— Ben Zigterman (@bzigterman) December 3, 2019
And a representative from the Ministerial Alliance of Champaign-Urbana and Vicinity put forward several questions about the privacy rights of students and when the schools would need parental consent.
If a student is being accused of wrongdoing, we “would definitely want a parent there,” said Jennifer Ivory-Tatum, the school district’s superintendent.
The Urbana school board voted 4-3 last month to send the agreement to the city.
Last week, the city council added an annual evaluation of the program, so the Urbana school board would presumably have to vote on the amended version.
The two officers would be an increase from the single part-time officer that’s historically been there, but the agreement would formalize a situation that’s already somewhat in place this school year.
The city had given its part-time officer more time last school year to spend in the schools after the district eliminated its deans in the spring of 2018, Urbana Police Chief Bryant Seraphin said in October.
After a fight in February at UHS resulted in several students being sent to jail and left one teacher briefly hospitalized, the Urbana police has had an officer at the high school five days a week.
And this school year, the city added an officer to the middle school, Seraphin said.
While the city has been covering most of the costs right now, with the intergovernmental agreement, Urbana would have to pay a one-time cost of $103,813, while the school district would pay $321,300 annually for the officers.
Ward 2 Alderman Erik Jakobsson said that while he agreed with some guests who pointed out the racial and economic injustice in the community, he trusted Urbana’s officers.
“We have an exceptional police department,” he said. “It’s a mistake to judge the Urbana Police Department by the bad things that have happened elsewhere.”
And Ivory-Tatum said the officers could help reduce fear of police.
“We need to combat that by having positive role models of police presence that our students can connect to,” she said.