LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – After high-profile fights at Iroquois High School, including one between at teacher and student, some community members pleaded with the Jefferson County Board of Education on Tuesday to reconsider its stance on school resource officers.
Christopher 2X, a youth and family advocate, asked the school board to take another vote after a 3-3 split before the start of the 2019-20 school year resulted in contracts for 11 school resource officers to lapse.
Before that, Louisville Metro pulled 17 SROs to make up a budget gap.
2X cited recent student behavior incidents at Jefferson County Public Schools, including 71 assaults reportedly involving students and staff through the opening weeks of the current school year. In addition, he said, weapon-related incidents rose from 88 in 2017-18 to 220 last school year. And a Jefferson County Teachers Association survey showed that more than 1,000 teachers indicated that they had been assaulted at least once in school and that most had not reported the incidents.
A 14-year-old Iroquois freshman, Kamron Jennings, was arrested after he fought with a teacher, Carrie Adams, Oct. 29 over his use of a cell phone in class.
Less than two weeks before that, Iroquois Principal Clay Holbrook was struck in the face while trying to break up a fight involving six female students on Oct. 17.
“Against this backdrop of escalating violence, JCPS has not had any school-board authorized school resource officers, armed or unarmed, not one, at any school this year as they have had in past years,” 2X wrote in prepared remarks to the school board.
JCPS and the school board are developing policies regarding a new internal force of SROs, but none has been presented to the board.
It’s unclear whether the officers would be allowed to carry firearms or how they would dress, with some board members, particularly those who voted against renewing SRO contracts in August, expressing concerns about armed officers negatively affecting minority students and their comfort in school environments.
With a full seven-member board, after Joe Marshall’s appointment and election Nov. 5, 2X called for the board to take another vote and “break the tie and make our schools safer with school resource officers available.”
“Teachers and kids there (at Iroquois) have been on edge, and kids just can’t achieve to their potential in those circumstances,” he wrote. “… The facts are (if) you care about kids’ learning and the quality of teaching, you need to provide a safer environment in all schools for all kids.”
Other speakers who addressed the board were split on whether officers belong in schools.
The 14-year-old Iroquois student's mother, Kenyatta Jennings, grew emotional as she addressed what happened in that Iroquois classroom last month.
The situation, she said, "shouldn't have gotten to that point." Had her son been able to calm down outside the classroom and talked to someone who could relate to him, Jennings said things might have turned out differently that day.
"It's hard for black students, it's hard for brown students for them to go to school and they already have a judgment against them based on what they look like," Jennings said.
Police in schools aren't the answer, she said.
"I just wish that you all would look into it better and provide more resources and counseling and just anything else but SROs," Jennings said.
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