The Columbia City Council unanimously approved a new agreement with the school district to provide school resource officers.
Four police officers will serve as school resource officers in three of the city’s public high schools and one to work in up to two middle schools. The city and school district will split the salaries of the officers, amounting to more than $206,000 from each agency.
The school district approved its end of the deal last week, despite members of the public urging they delay the vote for more opportunity to provide input.
Ayona Grissom said her child was arrested by an SRO at Smithton Middle School in April. The school and police suspected her daughter of assaulting another student during school. Grissom said it wasn’t until a couple hours after the arrest that a co-worker let her know that the SRO had called to notify her.
“They mug shotted her, they fingerprinted her, they sat her down in the interview room,” Grissom said. “I should have been present for all of that.”
The agreement requires that parents be present during any questioning of a student who is younger than 17. School officials are responsible for contacting the student’s parents if the student is arrested, preferably before they are taken away from school campus.
Police Chief Geoff Jones said Monday that he hoped the new agreement would allow police to be seen less as a security force and more involved in helping the student’s lives.
Grissom said she hoped communication improves between police, schools and parents.
“Besides having these police officers come in, scaring the living daylights out of kids,” Grissom said. “You’re putting handcuffs on them.”