BVSD school board hears update on hiring safety advocates, phasing out SROs

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Boulder Valley has hired 10 school safety advocates as the school district creates more equitable discipline practices while phasing out its school resource officer program.

The school board heard an update Tuesday on the district’s equitable discipline work. Along with voting in November to end the SRO program, the school board directed district officials to develop new options to ensure safety and improve discipline practices.

The board agreed to make the change based on concerns that students of color are more likely to be ticketed, arrested, suspended or expelled. The district’s target date to end the SRO program is January.

Boulder Valley spokesman Randy Barber said he couldn’t share how many SROs are still working in district schools, citing district practice “not to comment about specific security arrangements in our schools.”

The newly hired safety advocates are attending training sessions now and are expected to start work in the schools in the new few weeks, he said.

Safety Director Brendan Sullivan said he used feedback from eight district stakeholder groups on the job duties and knowledge and skills the safety advocates will have, as well as what training they will need.

“They’re our employees,” he said, adding they will focus on restorative practices and won’t be involved in enforcement of discipline.

They will be part of the school leadership team and work directly with students, he said. They’re expected to be culturally competent, knowledgeable about law and able to provide emergency management. Their initial training includes anti-bias education, mental health first aid, cultural responsiveness and non-violent crisis intervention.

Ten candidates have accepted positions to date, leaving one person left to be hired. Sixty percent of those hired are people of color, according to the district. The interviewers included representatives from the Parents of Color Council, Youth Equity Council, Equity Council, District Accountability Committee and middle and high school leaders.

Along with hiring safety advocates, the district this fall hired five additional school mental health advocates plus a restorative practices coordinator.

Janelle King, the restorative practices coordinator, said she’s checking to see what restorative practices are in use in high schools before starting to implement them at high schools districtwide, with plans to add other grade levels later.

Other areas regarding safety that the district is still working on include revising memorandums of understanding with law enforcement agencies, including updating language about information sharing and incident notifications. The district also is aligning its school emergency preparedness plans with best practices as well as assigning district staff members to roles previously held by SROs.

Completed equitable discipline work includes the school board adopting revised student conduct and discipline policies in June, providing bullying prevention training for 500 teachers at the start of the school year, and creating more consistent systems for discipline data collection.

To measure progress on its new practices, the district recently partnered with the University of Colorado Boulder’s Wellness Renee Crown Institute. The institute plans to help the district identify ways to measure progress on equity initiatives, along with identifying priorities for evaluation.