STORY BY TOMOKI CHIEN AND NATALIE WEI, PHOTO BY TOMOKI CHIEN
Mountain View–Los Altos School District Superintendent Dr. Nellie Meyer expressed interest in hiring a full-time school resource officer (SRO) for the Los Altos High School campus in yesterday’s Los Altos Citizen’s Police Task Force meeting.
Meyer, along with LAHS Principal Wynne Satterwhite, cited relationship-building with students as the primary purpose for the full-time officer, seeing as the LAHS campus is already “very safe.”
The police task force subcommittee, created in mid-October, is set to provide the City Council with final recommendations regarding reforms to the SRO program and citizens’ complaint process on Tuesday, November 24.
“The SRO program is about helping students make better choices, not getting them in trouble,” Satterwhite said. “They know the students even better than us sometimes — it’s a really nice relationship in that sense.”
Currently, only one SRO is assigned to the campus, and that officer is not present unless upon request by the school administration. According to Meyer, the current officer is spread “very thin” across campus and thus isn’t able to build relationships with students.
Not all LAHS staff agreed with Meyer and Satterwhite, however.
“As both a former student and a current teacher, I don’t think I’ve seen a case where an SRO helped solve a problem,” English teacher Michael Smith said. “They just escalate the situation even more.”
Social studies teacher Margaret Blach asserted that SROs are “ineffective in every capacity,” as they could be the “least racist cop” but still represent an institution disconcerting to students.
Meyer, on her part, emphasized campus safety as the foremost goal of the SRO program, followed by the development of student relationships. In fact, she said that the administration’s expectations regarding campus safety were “met or exceeded” by the SRO program “95 percent of the time.”
Task force members pointed out that this contradicted previous statements.
SROs are not present during the majority of the administration’s disciplinary actions; however they may be present if arrest is a possibility, and they’re also able to seek out students on campus for interrogation concerning off-campus incidents.
Additionally, SROs often participate in wellness checks at “at risk” students’ homes, which are evaluated based on chronic truancy and academic performance; they also help transport students or contact their families during crises.
“While we are aware that the administration is just one perspective, our relationship with the SROs has been one where goals are met,” Meyer said, when asked if she’s satisfied with the program.
“No matter how good the intent is, negative outcomes should still be addressed,” task force member Moira Huang said.
Task force members brought up the “problematic” experiences of three Black alumni with LAHS SROs, who expressed discomfort coming forward during their time at LAHS, believing that the “administration was with the SROs.”
Although these events occurred eight years ago, task force members claimed that the issue still exists — students are simply still not coming forward.
With regard to demographics, Meyer revealed that Latino males are especially affected by disproportionate disciplinary rates.
In addition to existing implicit bias training, the MVLA Board is set to approve mandatory anti-bias training for all staff next Monday, November 9, to alleviate racial disparities.