St. Paul School Board hears comments on police contract

- St. Paul Police Department's new contract with St. Paul Public Schools drew large public interest in the wake of a school year that saw a string of violent student-teacher interactions and controversial arrests.

Tuesday night, the St. Paul School Board discussed the St. Paul Police Department's contract proposal for School Resource Officers (SROs) for the district.

During the 2015-2016 school year, SPPS dealt with a string of incidents where teachers were allegedly attacked by students. In December, a teacher suffered a traumatic brain injury after trying to break up a fight between students. A video in March captured two students slamming a teacher to the ground.  

During a presentation on the contract, police officials said the proposed contract is worth $984,499. The bulk of the cost would be handled by Saint Paul Public Schools with $100,000 coming from the police department. Under the new terms, the SROs would wear different uniforms and engage in more introductions with students.

Currently, SROs are assigned to each high school in the district. Two of the nine officers respond to the other schools as needed.

The St. Paul Police Deputy Chief said having SROs is a positive resource as they provide an opportunity to build relationships and engagement with the public.

Board Director Steve Marchese said the cost of the contract demands specificity in roles of the officers.

Directors received an applause from audience members when they asked for more data on officers' use of force and arrests in schools.  In October, a police officer tased a student who apparently said he was going to take on the world. St. Paul Central High students also voiced their concerns about cost and effectiveness of resource officers.

The Deputy Chief responded the data is available, but school officials pointed out not every interaction is tracked necessarily.

Board Directors did not vote on the contract Tuesday evening. That will likely come at the board's next regular meeting August 23rd.

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