LPS and LPD release School Resource Officer and discipline data

Published: Nov. 16, 2021 at 9:21 PM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - School resource officers have been a part of Lincoln Public School’s high schools since 1971, but the program was expanded to middle schools through a partnership between the city and LPS in 2018.

As part of that expansion, the district and the police department work to collect and review data about the various role they serve inside the schools, how students and staff view interactions, and more.

This is the second school year where data has been gathered on the SRO referrals and discipline practices within schools.

For the 2020-21 school year, both LPD and LPS said it’s likely the numbers are impacted by things like COVID-19 and remote learning. During this time, calls for service and referrals dropped about 43% below the four-year average at middle and high schools.

From 2015 to 2019 LPS saw an average of 1,300 a year. During the 2020-21 school year, LPD responded to just shy of 750 calls for service at middle and high schools.

“Calls to service from middle and high schools come to us from many different sources,” said LPD officer Luke Bonkiewicz. “It could be a student contacting an SRO, it could be a call made by an administrator to 911, so there’s a variety of ways for those to be initiated.”

Serious incidents, like assaults, narcotics, and disturbances make up a majority of those calls, but those numbers also remain well below that four-year average.

Like prior years, African American and Native American students are overrepresented among both victims and suspects during 2020-21, as were students who qualify for free and reduced lunches.

“If it’s a behavioral issue; a student not sitting in their seat or acting out, versus a student that’s assaulting someone, a student that’s destroying community property, school property, that would be an instance for the police,” Bonkiewicz said.

The determination between if it’s an issue for administration or law enforcement continues to be an emphasis in training for staff in schools with SROs.

Last school year the top group to initiate those calls for service was administrators at 30%. The lowest was the actual officer at about 1%.

LPS said part of that training for school staff comes in the summer, when they are presented with scenarios that could happen in middle and high schools. They work together to determine the best course of action, and discipline.

“Be able to talk through you know what the administrators do with this piece,” said Russ Uhing, LPS’s Director of Student Services. “How do they involve the SRO and if so in what way.”

LPS also puts forth a perception survey to students, families, and staff about its resource officers. In total, about 9,500 students completed it.

That perception survey asks students things like, if they’ve had interactions with SROs, how the situation was handled, and if they felt heard and respected.

Overall responses were fairly positive, but students of color did rate their interactions less positively than their white counterparts.

“We would like to see the disproportionalities, both the small ones that we saw in perception as well as the disproportionality when it comes to school discipline we want those to continue to decrease,” said Leslie Eastman with LPS’s Assessment and Evaluation Department of Educational Service.

The report is also used as an improvement model for the program.

Two recommendations were listed in the report. The first to continue to emphasize training for SROs and school staff. The second, reviewing disparity data and shifting how to better direct students from being disciplined into resource programs, instead of using things like expulsions and referrals.

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