Mankato Area Public Schools discusses future with school resource officers

Mankato Area Public Schools discusses future with school resource officers

MANKATO, Minn. (KEYC) - Mankato Area Public Schools is holding a work session Wednesday evening to discuss the future of school resource officers, or SROs, on campus.

The contract is up for renewal, but there are mixed responses to their presence in schools.

MAPS joins districts across the state in the conversation on whether or not to keep SROs on campus.

Over the summer, districts in Winona, Minneapolis and St. Paul chose to end their contracts.

MAPS Director of Communication Stacy Wells said the district has held engagement sessions and completed a survey that’s received about 300 responses.

“It was really important to get that information and feedback from the community,” Wells said.

Positive responses argued that SROs provide safety, develop positive relationships and build trust with students.

Negative responses argued that students feel intimidated, police discriminate against people of color and their appearance adds to the school-to-prison pipeline.

Out of 306 respondents, 81.4 percent said SROs support their child’s school experience.

Out of 301 respondents, 64.5 percent said a partnership between MAPS and the Mankato Department of Public Safety should not look different.

But a petition submitted to the school board to cut ties with the police department is now close to its 1500 signature goal.

The petition argues that SROs extend the school-to-prison pipeline and cites data from the Department of Human Rights that shows schools with police officers tend to have higher arrests and higher suspensions.

KEYC News Now reached out to Ignite the Youth, the group that started the petition, but they did not comment for this story.

The engagement sessions also had a large turnout from various community members.

Harbi Hassan is the board chair and co-founder of the Mankato Islamic Center.

He also has two kids who graduated from Mankato East High School.

He said he supports SROs.

“So I’m saying they’re doing a good job, and if we need more resources to help people of color, we could ask different resources. But I’m thinking what we have, because the SROs are doing great work,” he said.

The survey also asked if respondents would like to see other community partners involved in meeting school safety needs.

The majority said yes.

MAPS Director of Support Services Scott Hare said Wednesday’s work session will discuss the findings of the survey before a decision will be made later this month.

“The decision could be the current relationship continues, the current relationship does not continue or could it look differently moving forward,” he said.

The work session Wednesday night is virtual and begins at 5:30 p.m.

Wells said there are other things to consider moving forward.

“We also should be looking at other things such as adding more teachers of color or providing other sort of preventive things for students that are more from a positive asset based. What are we doing to build our students up continually?” she said.

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