School resource officers will remain at Mountain View High and Mountain View-Whisman schools, the city council unanimously voted on Tuesday.
SROs — police officers on school campuses — have long been a contentious issue, with a number of community activists advocating for their removal. The Los Altos City Council voted to remove SROs from Los Altos High in November of 2020.
The council’s vote followed the recommendation of the Public Safety Advisory Board, a city subcommittee which conducted five months of research, including a survey that received 486 responses from middle and high school students, staff and parents from the Mountain View-Los Altos Union and Mountain View Whisman school districts.
The results were somewhat mixed. 54% of middle schoolers had positive feelings about SROs on campus, while 9% had negative feelings and 37% remained neutral. When students got to high school, the percentage of negative feelings rose: 30% still had positive feelings, and now 27% had negative feelings and 43% remained neutral.
Mountain View’s history of youth services isn’t new. In fact, it began in the 1960s, with the city’s first youth position being created to address gang prevention and youth-related safety matters, according to Audrey Seymour Ramberg, assistant city manager and chief operating officer.
It’s since evolved into the current youth services unit, which the SRO program is a part of. The SRO program, which currently covers Mountain View High and Mountain View-Whisman schools, consists of three officers, one sergeant and one part-time coordinator.
“SROs are carefully selected for their passion for assisting youth and their ability to be effective in this role and receive special training to participate in this coveted assignment,” Ramberg said at the council meeting.
Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School District Superintendent Dr. Nellie Meyer also voiced her strong support for SROs at the meeting.
“The SRO program is part of a multifaceted program of student support and intervention on our high school campus and the work of the PSAB has continued this critical conversation,” Meyer said.
Historically, the MVLA district has been in support of keeping SROs on campus. Meyer and Los Altos High School Principal Wynne Satterwhite both spoke in support of keeping SROs on the Los Altos campus last year, and the district formally asked the City of Mountain View to keep SROs at Mountain View High this summer.
Still, others questioned the validity of keeping SROs on campuses.
“Schools are supposed to be a safe haven for all students. So even if one student feels that seeing an armed guard police officer on campus is distressing, that is one student too many,” said Toni Moos, an MVLA parent and mother of Keenan Moos, founder of the activist group Justice Vanguard. “There is a perception that security will be compromised by the absence of SROs. On campus, the police will still be called on campus for any emergency.”
“Having numerous reports from my students or students that I’ve mentored about their experiences, whether it was in the community, on campus [or] heading to school, I just don’t understand why we have to continue having this conversation,” said Kalinda Price, Los Altos High teacher.