Edmonds School Board cuts school resource officer contracts

All district high schools, except Lynnwood High, won’t have on-campus officers when students return.

LYNNWOOD — The Edmonds School District is cutting ties with local police departments who provide resource officers at high schools, amid nationwide outcry over police brutality against Black people.

After weeks of debate, with dozens of district residents and students speaking for and against resource officers, school board directors voted unanimously Tuesday night to end contracts with the Edmonds, Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace police departments. The district’s new superintendent has asked for a year to develop his own safety plan for schools.

“It was critical that the board heard and continue to hear from our students on this and other issues,” said School Board President Deborah Kilgore in a news release. “It is unacceptable that students are hurting and feel unsafe in our schools. We are determined to review our current school safety plans and will make the systemic changes necessary to ensure the safety and wellness of all students.”

Tuesday’s vote comes as cities and other government bodies grapple with how to respond to police brutality against Black people, recently highlighted by the death of George Floyd.

Across the country, many school districts have re-examined their relationship with local law enforcement.

Earlier this month, Seattle Public Schools announced a one-year ban of resource officers on campuses.

On Wednesday, the Seattle School Board voted to suspend another program that stationed officers at schools, according to The Seattle Times.

For the Edmonds School District, Meadowdale, Edmonds-Woodway and Mountlake Terrace High School will not have on-campus police officers.

Edmonds Police Chief Jim Lawless was one of the voices opposing the decision.

“While I completely understand the desire and sense of urgency to immediately address community concerns surrounding social injustices, I believe that this decision was borne out of emotion, not data, and was hastily undertaken,” he said in a statement. “I am disappointed that this process was not more deliberative and inclusive of all parties involved – the district, students, faculty, staff, and yes, the police department.”

He added that Kilgore’s comments do not reflect the relationship between his officers and students at Edmonds-Woodway High School.

“I am quite disappointed that she would paint your police department’s efforts with such a broad brush,” he said.

In August, the board will decide on its contract with the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office, which provides a resource officer for Lynnwood High School.

Board Director Gary Noble has voiced concerns over slow response times to the high school in unincorporated Snohomish County. Other district schools don’t have that problem.

Also on Tuesday, the board welcomed the district’s new superintendent, Gustavo Balderas. One of his first tasks is drafting a new safety plan for the district’s high schools.

“We agree that student safety is a top priority,” he said in a news release. “I look forward to working with the board to review the overall safety and wellness plans currently in place. I will then work with students, staff, families and community members to propose a new and improved safety plan for all of our students.”

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