A Portland Board of Public Education committee is reviewing policies related to law enforcement to try to come up with comprehensive guidelines for the role police should play in schools.

The school board is likely to discuss next week whether to continue its agreement with the Portland Police Department, which currently provides two officers who work in schools, and as cities and school districts nationally are examining law enforcement’s role in the wake of George Floyd’s death while in the custody of Minneapolis police officers, and other high profile racial incidents involving police.

“Whether this specific relationship with SRO’s in our buildings continues or not, as that conversation happens we want to advance clarity around the role of law enforcement in our buildings,” said Assistant Superintendent Aaron Townsend at a policy committee meeting Wednesday night.

The committee met to discuss developing a policy for school resource officers, whose duties and responsibilities are outlined in a memorandum of understanding between Portland’s public schools and police department.

A proposal last fall to equip the school officers with body cameras, as has been done with other officers in the department, prompted the committee to try to come up with a policy to clarify their role.

That work was interrupted this spring by the coronavirus pandemic, but Townsend said he would like to see the committee re-engage with an eye toward bringing an umbrella policy up for consideration in August.


Townsend said he would also like to see the committee review other policies that relate to law enforcement, including educational records, security cameras, drugs and alcohol, code of conduct, weapons and violence, and bomb threats.

Though no formal action was taken Wednesday, committee members agreed they would like the work to continue, and they support developing an overall policy governing law enforcement in schools.

“I’m certainly very interested in developing a thoughtful policy about how we involve law enforcement in our schools in a way that is consistent with the Portland Promise and our goals around equity and the whole student,” said committee Chair Emily Figdor.

Tuesday’s full board meeting would be the last of the school year – the board does not meet in July. Board chair Roberto Rodriguez said while the agenda is not final he has spoken with a majority of board members who want to discuss Tuesday whether the district will continue with the SRO program.

The current agreement expires at the end of June and is scheduled to automatically renew at the start of the next school year.

More than 900 people have signed a petition asking the board to end its agreement with the police department in solidarity with Minneapolis Public Schools, which terminated its agreement on SRO’s last week.


Board member Marnie Morrione stressed Wednesday that she wants to allow ample time for the community to weigh in on the use of SRO’s, which are in place at Deering and Portland high schools.

“In light of all the tragic events that have happened and national reaction, I personally would not feel comfortable at all in a matter of a week making a big decision around this,” Morrione said. “I don’t feel comfortable. I know there is a petition coming to us, but again I don’t feel comfortable. We’re heading into summer and I’m concerned about leaving people behind.”

Some board members said they would support holding a special meeting either June 23 or June 30 to further discuss the issue. Regardless of the outcome, Superintendent Xavier Botana said, the district should examine all its policies related to law enforcement.

“It will be different if there is no SRO memorandum, but work around a policy that clarifies our engagement with police in our schools is necessary regardless and it just changes,” he said.

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