SRO Task Force Presents Recommendations to D219 Board

District 219 logo.

District 219 logo.

By Alma Duskic and Alli Lipsit

A D219 School Resource Officer (SRO) task force charged with evaluating the district’s SRO program presented its findings at the regularly-scheduled Board of Education meeting on May 6. After eight months, the task force made unanimous recommendations regarding safety and security that they described as non-negotiable. Their input on the future of the SRO program included three potential models, but a consensus was not reached. The board did not vote on the matter at the time.

“The task force was charged with evaluating the safety and security of our school, and making recommendations that will ensure all students and staff members can thrive in a safe and equitable learning environment,” Niles West Social Studies teacher and Task Force Facilitator DJ Kosiba said.

The task force was created in Oct. 2020, as the issue of equitable security and safety became a prominent discussion in the community. Beginning in the summer of 2020, public comment at board meetings reflected divided positions, with some constituents advocating for the SRO program and others calling for its removal.

“What all the research and data found showed the task force that there is a clear disproportionate use of discipline district-wide, regardless if we keep or discontinue the relationship with the School Resource Officer program at District 219,” Niles North Support Staff and Task Force Facilitator Alexia Kemp said. “If these changes don’t happen, then nothing changes systemically speaking.”

Recommendations for staff:

  1. Safety staff should be full-time employees of District 219
  2. District 219 should have one director of safety for district
  3. Well developed crisis plan that all staff and students are trained in
  4. Form an Ongoing Safety and Security Committee
  5. District-provided training for anyone and everyone who has contact with students

Recommendations for administration:

  1. Uniform/Robust standard operating procedures
  2. Clear parameters for any police involvement
  3. Track specific data for all teachers, deans, and safety staff individually
  4. Support from District 219 Administration for families who experience police contact
  5. Articulation with neighboring and sender districts with an eye towards diversity, equity, and inclusion in discipline

The task force’s voting members, who included staff, students, and members of the community, could not come to a unanimous decision regarding the future of the district’s Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) with the Skokie Police Department (SPD) and instead presented  possible scenarios to the board.

  • 2 votes: SRO stationed inside the building, the district would maintain an IGA with the SPD.
  • 3 votes: SRO stationed outside of the building, maintaining an IGA with the SPD.
  • 6 votes: no SRO, no IGA.

Not all members who initially joined the task force were able to complete the process. Superintendent Dr. Steven Isoye selected 15 members after an extensive application process; 11 remained to vote on the final SRO scenarios.

Voting members included John Bell, Sean Delahanty, John Kretsos, Nicole Reynolds, Elline Eliasoff, Natasha LaVallias, Melissa Ponce, Vicki Wolfinger, Raimond Pavely, Verity Sandell and one Niles West senior. The task force was facilitated by Niles West and Niles North staff members Angie Hankes, Alexia Kemp, DJ Kosiba, Nick Pahl, Sonia Pietrzyk, Imee Reichel, and Omar Salem. Facilitators were not voting members of the task force.

Niles West students weighed in on the future of the district’s relationship with an SRO, echoing the community’s division on the issue.

“SROs should not be in our schools. Multiple studies have found they do more harm than good, and I’ve heard stories from my friends in marginalized communities that are honestly saddening when it comes to their experience with SROs,” senior Ella Rousseau said.

Others want to continue the district’s relationship with the Skokie Police Department and maintain an SRO in the building.

“Yes, school resource officers benefit school because they bring an immediate source of security to a rather large area. Likewise, resource officers may help students feel safer and potentially reduce casualties in the event of an emergency. These officers may even work on building a strong relationship with the community,” junior Justin Hirmiz said.