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Columbia City Council approves SRO contract with Columbia Public Schools

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On Monday night, the Columbia City Council approved a new contract to bring back police officers in some school buildings with Columbia Public Schools and how to use the American Rescue Plan Act funds.

School Resource Officer Program

The Columbia City Council approved a new contract with Columbia Public Schools on Monday to bring back police officers in some school buildings.

Some people are all for adding School Resource Officers (SROs) to school buildings, saying it will make the schools a safer place. Others, have concerns over the school-to-prison pipeline and believe it could create more issues and a more dangerous environment.

The contract with CPS and the city says SROs would work to build relationships with students, deter crime on campus and respond to major disruptions.

The district hasn't had SROs since 2020, in the meantime, the district has hired off-duty officers and some community outreach officers.

The school would pay 75% of the salaries for four Columbia police officers, one for Hickman, one for Rock Bridge and two for Battle High Schools. The cost would be a little less than $300,000.

American Rescue Plan Act Funds Allocation Policy Proposal

This funds allocation policy, proposed by Ward 1 City Council Member Pat Fowler, was not approved by city council.

The plan details how 100% of the $25 million dollars of American Rescue Plan Act funds for Columbia should be dispersed.

Some members of the council and of the community were not for the plan since it spent 100% of the ARPA funds.

Some people asked the council to not approve the plan because it was premature to want some of the money to go to law enforcement and firefighters.

Some members of the council were for the plan and said the money needed to be spent and the plan works to help people that are in serious need.

Fowler proposes the city invest the funds in "providing direct assistance to those most disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, relieving the conditions of systemic poverty, racial inequality, and to building robust pathways to economic security and public health capacity."

Part of the policy focuses on helping the 27,500 Columbia residents who live below the federal poverty line and the 7,800 students who qualify for free or reduced school lunches based on household incomes.

The policy states about 13,000 rental households are considered to be "cost-burdened," which means that rent and utility costs equate to more than 30% of the total household income. According to the policy, 238 residents were also identified as homeless in 2020 in Columbia, which is also a population the funds would help if put into place.

Agreement between Local Law Enforcement & CPS

The Columbia City Council approved an agreement between Columbia Public Schools and local law enforcement regarding school discipline. If approved and the agreement is signed by Columbia Police Chief Geoff Jones and Columbia City Manager De'Carlon Seewood, it would establish a working relationship for managing students who commit minor school-based law violations.

For this proposition, the agreement would establish a working relationship between Columbia Public Schools, the Columbia Police Department, the Boone County Sheriff's Department, and the 13th Juvenile Division of the Judicial Circuit Court.

This agreement would allow CPS to hold students accountable with school-based discipline for certain actions rather than referring students to the justice system.

School officials would take into account the students' age, maturity level, severity of the offense and if the situation involved a weapon when determining if an event would fall under the policy to assign a school-based punishment or if law enforcement would need to get involved.

If approved, the agreement would replace a similar one put into place in 2017. According to the council memo, this new agreement would address community concerns by putting a greater emphasis on pursuing all possible options before referring a student to the justice system.

The agreement would run through June 2025, but any party would be able to withdraw from the agreement with a 30-day notice.

Article Topic Follows: Columbia
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Meghan Drakas

Meghan joined ABC 17 News in January 2021.
The Penn State grad is from the Philadelphia suburbs where she interned with several local TV stations.

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Leila Mitchell

Leila is a Penn State graduate who started with KMIZ in March 2021. She studied journalism and criminal justice in college.


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