W.A. Bass Learning Center and Johnson Alternative Learning Center will no longer have School Resource Officers (SROs) provided by Metro Police after the officers at those schools reported a "toxic environment," according to Kristin Mumford with MNPD.
The SROs at W.A. Bass and Johnson ALC reported that they spent a disproportionate amount of time dealing with security concerns.
"School Resource Officers are not security guards," Mumford said in an email. "They focus on developing relationships with students through education and mentoring."
Mumford told News4 that the three officers that were at those schools will move to a comprehensive high school and a middle school, but she did not specify which.
"We are very disappointed they are pulling resources from those particular schools. Those are students that are caught in cycles and vicious cycles," Dr. Sharon Gentry, a school board member said.
Dr. Gentry represents one of the alternative schools in her district.
Mumford added that MNPD's resources are limited, and they are going to move their SROs to where those resources are best used.
The SROs will be moved from the alternative schools on March 1. There is at least one SRO in every comprehensive high school, and Mumford said most middle schools have them as well.
"If the mindset is that these students are toxic, that's how we get to the challenging situations that we find," Dr. Gentry said.
Metro Nashville Public Schools provided News4 with the following statement:
The safety of students is our first priority. We understand the position of MNPD, and we remain committed to continuing conversations and maintaining a positive working relationship. We believe their presence is valuable in our schools and that their officers have a lot to share which positively impacts our students and the community as a whole.
Mumford said that the schools will not be totally abandoned. Metro officers on patrol will still check in on the schools. Plus, Mumford said that MNPS has the option to station guards from their own security agency at the schools.
"I hope we can do something about this moving forward, but I do think this speaks to a larger issue about funding and resourcing and the city has to wrap their arms around these students," Christiane Buggs, another school board member said.
Director of Metro Schools Dr. Shawn Joseph sent the following letter to the School Board members regarding MNPD's decision to pull the SROs:
Last week Chief Anderson at MNPD shared with me that he is pulling the SROs from the Alternative Learning Centers. I communicated that I did not agree or think it was wise to pull SROs mid-year from our most vulnerable students. I also asked him to allow us to at least make it to the end of the year, but he said that was not possible. He noted that there is a shortage of SROs and he needed to pull the resource to redeploy them into larger schools with vacancies.
We need to ensure the safety of our students and support our school-based staff. Therefore, I have authorized my team to hire 4 security personnel to be placed in the Alternative Learning Centers as soon as possible as to not have a gap in services. We did not plan on this expense, but it is too critical for safety concerns to not have full-time safety staff in each ALC. The security officers will not have arrest powers, and they will not carry weapons. As a result, we will take additional security measures, including having security check for dangerous objects as students enter the buildings. Chief Anderson shared that there will be a supervisor that rotates to provide support to Alternative Learning Centers instead of each learning center having its own full-time SRO. Please let me know if you have additional questions.
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