116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — No students have left Kennedy High School in handcuffs so far this year, said Drew Tran, the school’s police officer, as the district and police department work together on changes to the school resource officer program.
Earlier this year, Tran said he broke up a fight between two students. The students stopped fighting after Tran got between them and “was the one who was hurt.” He believes his relationship with them was what stopped the punches.
“I took the time to sit down and talk to them and diverted that incident,” Tran said, adding it didn’t come “to handcuffs” because of that.
“My colleagues and I are truly in this to be the people we needed when we were younger,” Tran said.
The number of students charged with a crime in Cedar Rapids schools decreased over a three-month period after changes were made this year to the school resource officer program.
Black students still are being charged at a higher rate than white students, school district Deputy Superintendent Nicole Kooiker said during a school board meeting Monday.
Comparing August through November data from 2018 with August through November data from this year, there has been an 88.4 percent reduction in charges for white high school students and a 78.7 percent reduction in charges for Black high school students, according to school board documents.
“Disproportionality is still a concern,” Kooiker said. “We’re going to do everything we can to continue to work on that issue.”
Earlier this year, data from the Iowa Department of Human Rights showed that Black students in Cedar Rapids schools were six times more likely to have allegations of criminal wrongdoing made against them than white students.
Less than 3 percent of all students were arrested by school resource officers over a four-year period. Black students, however, were arrested at higher rates than white students. Black students make up 19.1 percent of the student population.
The district and Cedar Rapids police set joint goals of reducing arrests and charges filed against all students by 50 percent or more, and bringing a 50 percent or greater reduction in the disproportionate number of arrests of Black students.
An amended agreement for the school resource officer program — under which city police officers operate in some schools — was approved in October by the Cedar Rapids City Council and in November by the school board.
In November, one Black student in a Cedar Rapids high school was charged, compared with over five in November 2019 and over 10 in November 2018, according to the data.
During that same month, four white students were charged in Cedar Rapids high schools, compared with more than five in November 2019 and 20 in November 2018.
At McKinley and Roosevelt middle schools, one Black student and no white students have been charged in 2021. In 2019, five black students and three white students were charged, and in 2018, 11 Black students and four white students were charged.
One of the changes made to the school resource officer program is expanding the number of charges that can qualify for diversion. In late 2020, 11 charges such as possession of tobacco as a minor, possession of alcohol as a minor and minor theft were added to the diversion program.
Ten white students and nine Black students have been diverted to other programs instead of being arrested between August and November 2021.
Not included in these numbers is the number of “informal diversions” that have occurred before a student is charged, Lt. Cory McGarvey said.
Diversions have ranged from having a student write an essay to a student and parent agreeing to counseling appointments, McGarvey said.
In January, the district will begin educating students on how to interact with a police officer, Kooiker said.
“We are really excited to have reduced the amount of charges and focused on restorative practices,” Kooiker said, adding that the district now is looking at how to proactively change student behavior.
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