PORTLAND — With the removal of school resource officers from the city’s high schools this year, school officials are about to embark on a process to update more than a dozen policies that dictate how police officers and schools interface.

A first step in the process will be a public session later this month. The city’s policy committee will meet Sept. 22 to lay out the parameters of the session.

There are 13 policies on the books now that spell out when and how police are called for things like bomb threats, drug and alcohol use, firearms or weapons possession, questioning and searches, visitors in the schools, and how educational records are handled.

The hope, Superintendent Xavier Botana said, is to have these policies updated by the winter school break, which begins for students Dec. 23.

“It is not inconsequential and it will take some time,” he said.

Some policies, he said, need “very serious revisions.” Others need, perhaps, just minor tweaks.

The school board voted 7-2 June 30 to end an agreement with the Portland Police Department to have one officer each at Portland High School and one at Deering High School. The push to do so came from the local Black Lives Matter movement, which argued that having officers in the schools made students of color feel uneasy and that police were being used to deal with issues that law enforcement should not be involved with.

Assistant Superintendent Aaron Townsend said there is no specific deadline to update the police-related policies.

“It is a matter of setting a cadence and bandwidth to do the work,” he said at a Aug. 25 policy committee meeting.

Until they are updated, the current version of the policies will remain in place. The Portland Police Department will continue to be called to schools to respond to emergencies and crimes and to provide security when the district is allowed again to hold large events, such as athletics or performances.

Under what circumstances those calls are made is still ambiguous. The resolution passed by the board to end the school resource officer program prohibited schools “from calling the police to intervene unless a student’s behavior poses real and immediate risk of serious physical harm.” Townsend said the district “has yet to define a specific threshold for real and immediate risk.”

Nevertheless, Police Chief Frank Clark said the department will plan to respond to Deering and Portland high schools in the same manner they do Portland’s other schools.

“When the schools call for any sort of emergency or other incident, it will be prioritized by our dispatch center and available officers – not necessarily the former school resource officer – will be assigned to assist,” he said. “We intend to maintain our historically strong relationship with the school department so as to enhance the level of safety for their students and staff.”

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