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School Resource Officer

School Resource Officer Megan Nelson checks an unlocked door over the lunch hour at Lincoln High School last spring.

City and school officials want to use five-year trends of school discipline, police and juvenile court data as well as surveys of parents, staff and students to evaluate the school resource officer program in Lincoln’s middle and high schools.

The recently released draft of the evaluation process stems from a memorandum of understanding signed by the city and Lincoln Public Schools as part of an interlocal agreement between the two entities on several initiatives to improve school safety.

One of those initiatives was to add six school resource officers to work in LPS’ 12 middle schools. Officers have been assigned to each of the six high schools for a number of years.

The proposal -- one that started with community members who wanted more SROs to beef up school security -- was met with resistance by others who were concerned it would exacerbate the “school to prison pipeline” and disproportionately affect students of color and those with disabilities.

The memorandum of understanding says -- among other things -- that school administrators, not officers, should enforce school rules and there should be a clear delineation of the roles and responsibilities of school resource officers.

It also says the program should be evaluated -- and this is how officials suggest it be done.

Leslie Eastman, LPS director of assessment and evaluation who was among city and school staff involved in creating the draft, said they wanted to look at both negative and positive outcomes.

They’ll use both school and police data to determine whether school discipline is being used when appropriate and to gauge whether minority students are being unfairly targeted. And they’ll use five years' worth of data to identify trends, Eastman said.

The public can weigh in on the draft of the evaluation at a Nov. 8 meeting at Schoo Middle School, 700 Penrose Drive, from 7-9 p.m. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m.

John Neal, LPS assistant to the superintendent, said Leadership Lincoln will help lead small groups at the Nov. 8 meeting. While they plan to invite those who have taken an interest or expressed concern about adding school resource officers, anyone is invited, he said.

Suggestions from the public will be considered and used to edit the draft before going before the interlocal board for approval.

The draft sets out six program goals: creating a common understanding of the responsibilities of school staff and SROs; minimizing school discipline; promoting effectiveness and accountability; providing training to school staff and SROs; and using practices that ensure all students are treated impartially and without bias.

The data used would include:

* Police citations and referrals to juvenile court from incidents that happened at school as well as the outcome (such as diversion programs or formal charges);

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* Police calls for service to schools while school is in session, including the frequency of different incidents.

* School discipline data, which will be used to examine the types and frequency of offenses at schools that are associated with citations or referrals, as well as who initiated the call (police, school staff, students or parents.)

* Demographic breakdowns of students cited by police and disciplined by school officials compared to overall demographics of students at LPS.

The evaluation also includes a survey conducted by LPS on how students and staff perceive school safety as well as how students, parents and staff perceive the actions of the SROs.

As part of the evaluation, police would track complaints involving school resource officers as well as the number of commendations they receive.

Officials also propose tracking the number of minutes school resource officers spend conducting educational presentations for students and doing a survey to gauge their impact.

LPS would be responsible for developing a document for LPS staff that outlines the role of SROs.

Police would track the hours of training provided to the school resource officers.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7226 or mreist@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSreist.

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Education reporter

Margaret Reist is a Lincoln native, the mom of three high school graduates now navigating college and an education junkie who covers students, teachers and policymakers inside and outside the K-12 classroom.

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