Local News

Updated agreement further defines roles of Wake school resource officers

Posted June 3, 2014 7:24 a.m. EDT
Updated June 3, 2014 11:56 p.m. EDT

— Many who spoke during Tuesday’s Wake County school board meeting regarding an updated agreement outlining how school resource officers interact with students have been vocal critics of the issue, including Selina Garcia, whose arrest made her a prominent face of the ongoing debate.

Garcia, 17, was arrested in March for repeatedly hitting a student on a bus and threatening a teacher at Southeast Raleigh Magnet High School. She spent three weeks in jail because no parent or guardian was available to take responsibility for her. Garcia was in-between foster families at the time.

Her case highlighted issues with the state foster care system and served as fuel for those who say law enforcement officers should not arrest students for issues that could be handled at school.

“I was incarcerated by an SRO who said I needed to learn a lesson,” Garcia told school board members Tuesday.

The updated agreement advises officers to work closely with school administrators, use only appropriate force and attend annual training on topics unique to school environments, such as cultural competency, alternatives to incarcerations programs, and mediation and conflict resolution processes.

“It addresses some critical areas we need to address,” said school board member Keith Sutton.

Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison, who was not at the meeting, said he has no issue with the updated document.

But critics say the agreement has holes.

“There is a gaping exception that says school resource officers can get involved anytime there is a violation of criminal law," said Jennifer Story, an attorney with Legal Aid of North Carolina's Advocate for Children Services.

Story helped file a federal complaint against the school district in January, claiming school policing policies and practices "unnecessarily and unlawfully punish and criminalize minor misbehaviors and disproportionately harm African-American students and students with disabilities."

Wake County Board of Education Chairwoman Christine Kushner believes the updated agreement is a step in the right direction.

“I feel really good about where we are with this understanding,” she said.

The board is expected to vote on the agreement during the June 17 school board meeting.