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Tempe school board looks at phasing out school resource officers

Tempe Union High School District
Posted at 10:08 PM, Oct 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-13 07:22:41-04

TEMPE, AZ  — For years, Tempe Union High School District has used local police as school resource officers, or SROs.

However, the need for armed officers on campus will be debated during a board meeting Wednesday.

If approved, a resolution would see the district create an entirely new safety plan that does not include SROs.

"My initial reaction is that we need to rethink the SRO system," said Amanda Steele, a TUHSD parent.

Steele told ABC15 she supports having school resource officers as long as there are some policies to oversee officers.

"SROs bring safety, SROs will also hopefully bring the idea that our future generations will become police officers and first responders," said Steele.

"I do believe there are many flaws and without evaluations and proper governance we aren't able to ensure that the program is being run efficiently," she added.

Part of Wednesday's discussion stems from which students are being referred to law enforcement.

According to the resolution, "Black TUHSD students are three times more likely than their white peers to be referred to law enforcement, as reported to the U.S. Department of Education."

When asked, officials with the Tempe Police Department told ABC15 they do not support removing SROs.

They told ABC15 they're the first line of defense, "and the response for officers on campus is going to be much quicker," said Det. Natalie Barela.

Barela is a Tempe native and spent three years as an SRO for the district.

"SROs are there simply to help," she said. "They're simply there to be safety, security...and to help students and families," she added.

Wednesday's meeting is at 7 p.m. at the district office. It will also be streamed online.

In addition to the resolution, the board will consider contracts with Tempe and Phoenix police departments for SRO services.

The resolution, if approved as written, would get rid of SROs starting in August 2022.