116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Next week, the Cedar Rapids School board will hold a work session to discuss the district’s contract with the Cedar Rapids Police Department to provide School Resource Officers, or SROs, in high schools and potentially middle schools.
We urge the board to use the work session, at 5:30 p.m. on July 6, to discuss some key points, including what the role of SROs is and how they will set metrics to judge the program’s performance.
The discussion should also include details on what additional student support programs will be funded to address student behavior issues. It should not be only a discussion about SROs only. The board hasn't spent as much time on comprehensive options, with the SRO discussion consuming much of that time.
With more information about other strategies and options, the board can judge whether these programs should receive additional funding.
One way to find additional dollars would be to renegotiate the breakdown of cost sharing with the city to fund SROs. Spending on these efforts should reflect what’s best for students, so adjustments may be needed.
If, for example, the city and district continued to split costs at the high school level, but the district asked the city fully cover the cost of two middle school SROs, this would result in an additional $275,000 in funds that could be used to fund other supports to students. We understand the city feels very strongly about the success of the SRO program. With such strong support, the city can use money from its traffic camera program to fund a greater share of the SRO program in the middle schools.
We also think the district should continue the SRO program during the upcoming school year, along with other efforts to divert students from either arrest or traditional discipline such as suspensions. Data shows encouraging successes with expanded diversion options last school year and we want to see how these programs perform for another year.
We encourage the board to set specific data and measures and further define what they consider the role of SROs to be and how they see it tied to student success.
There also needs to be more transparency on the part of the school district. And when the contract comes up for renewal next year, the process must start earlier, giving the board, community partners and the police more time to conduct a comprehensive review.
SROs can play an important role, but that role must be well defined and more data must be collected to allow the community a clear view of the programs’ performance.
(319) 398-8262; firstname.lastname@example.org