SRO discussion still stirring debate

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URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) — The middle and high schools are one step closer to getting two full time school resource officers (SRO’s).

Council members moved the plan forward by sending it on to the full council for a vote. If approved, there would be full-time officers at both the middle and high schools.

An agreement between the school board and the city still needs to be finalized. Last night council members spent more than four hours hearing from the public and discussing this. There was backlash from parents at the school board meeting last week, and there was backlash at last night’s meeting as well.

Right now, the middle school has a full-time SRO on a temporary basis and the high school has a part time officer.

“We do have more gun violence in 2019 more youth gun violence,” said Urbana Police Chief Bryant Seraphin when he spoke before the council Monday evening.

This plan would create two full time positions. At the meeting, some parents expressed concerns about how officers in the schools make students feel. Others who live in Urbana also said they don’t believe officers make schools safer. Urbana 2nd Ward Alderman Eric Jakobsson says he supports their presence in the schools.

“The SRO’s really seem to augment the staff at the school in dealing with situations that escalate outside of ordinary arguments or even ordinary fights,” said Jakobsson.

Last night, city council members also asked for an amendment that includes a two-year review for the SRO’s. That amendment is in the process of drafting.

The agreement will now go to the full city council to approve at their next meeting. If it’s approved, the full-time officer could start at the high school as early as February.

The annual cost for the resource officer addition will be around $321,000. That includes money for training, equipment, salary, pension, and insurance. The school district will pay for that, but the city will also pay a $100,000 one-time fee for new equipment.

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