DENVER (KDVR) — Denver Public Schools will phase out school resource officers following a unanimous vote by the Board of Education Thursday night. The district will instead redirect funding from the SRO program to things like counselors, nurses and psychologists.
“I guess I have mixed feelings. I had a little bit of concern because I guess it does add a little bit of a safety and security feeling for me. But I really do believe that we need more mental health personnel in our schools,” said DPS parent, Darvey Vanwagner.
Former student Miles Harrison graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School in 2019. He says the SRO in the building did not necessarily make him feel safer, but shaped his perception of law enforcement.
“Having that relationship with a cop, that probably changed lot of peoples’ perspectives on cops and law enforcement. Seeing this cop in our school and his connection with students and kids and how it was good,” said Harrison.
Harrison says he supports the idea of bringing more mental health professionals into schools but fears students will be hesitant to take advantage of the resources.
“A police officer, just a normal person to person relationship actually could have more benefit than trying to go through therapy,” said Harrison.
John McDonald, Executive Director for the Department of School Safety with JeffCo Public Schools says he can’t imagine losing the program in their district. There are currently 40 school resource officers throughout JeffCo high schools and middle schools. McDonald says the law enforcement agencies cover the entire cost of the program.
“The SRO program is a cornerstone program for us. That doesn’t mean we don’t look at it or talk to our agencies about what it looks like year to year,” said McDonald.
McDonald says there is no indication of JeffCo Public Schools following in the footsteps of DPS when it comes to their SRO program. However, he believes this is an opportunity to look into best practices when it comes to law enforcement engaging with students.
Douglas County School District released a statement on its program saying in part, “Our school resource officers are much more than an officer in a school – they connect with students on a personal level and fully interact with them on a daily basis. We are grateful for their support and they are a valued part of the Douglas County School District community.”
Denver police will still respond to Denver schools when needed. DPS also has a Department of Safety with 165 officers who patrol the district.