The decision on whether to continue having a police officer at Stoughton High School is heading to a decision point in a few weeks.
A committee comprising Stoughton Area School District and city officials and district residents will have a say in shaping what the role of that position – called a school resource officer – could be.
The school board is joining many others around the country in questioning whether the position is having the effect they’re looking for as part of a renewed national conversation about racial justice, equality and policing.
The SRO’s role is the main question to answer, board president Frank Sullivan told the school board at its Sept. 8 meeting, after “significant discussion” about the role, responsibilities and future of the position by the board in recent weeks.
The district’s contract with the City of Stoughton for the position expired over the summer, but city officials were “comfortable” operating under the terms of the previous contract temporarily and allowing the district to delay a decision until closer to budget time this fall, Sullivan said. The district pays 75% of the $62,000 salary, and the city pays 25%.
“What we basically need to do is make a decision on the SRO by Halloween,” he said. “We owe that to our colleagues at the city, because they have to know as they budget whether they can count on the district paying 75% of the salary.”
The committee would define the SRO roles and responsibilities but would not make a recommendation on whether to have that position, said district superintendent Tim Onsager, who is forming it. The committee likely will include Stoughton police chief Greg Leck and Mayor Tim Swadley, as well as district administrators, staff and parents, Onsager said.
“It’s important the committee is made up of both the city and school district,” he said. “I would look to having a diverse committee to represent different viewpoints.”
The committee gives the board the “best chance to demand a potential vision for that SRO position,” and take a more informed vote, Sullivan said.
“Instead of the SRO definition we have now, we’ll have really thought about it – this is what the SRO could be, is this something you want?” he said. “How do we vote on whether to have an SRO when we don’t know what the SRO would do?”
The district first added a school resource officer in April 2013.
The purpose was to provide continuity and consistency across the educational system using proactive and reactive ways to curb violence and crimes, SHS principal Mike Kruse told the board in August.