GRESHAM, Ore. — When H.B. Lee Middle School welcomes back students in September, a familiar face will be noticeably absent — the school resource officer.
"When we lose someone who's been there awhile and made close connections with the students, with the staff and families, that's a concern," Steve Padilla of Reynolds School District said.
The concern stems from the City of Gresham's decision to put the brakes on its school resource officer (SRO) program. That means there will be no Gresham police officers stationed inside schools in the Centennial, Gresham-Barlow and Reynolds school districts.
"The Gresham Police Department notified us Friday to give us ample time to notify our board," Padilla said.
"It was a very difficult decision for us," Gresham Police Chief Travis Gullberg added.
Chief Gullberg said he had no choice but to pull officers out of schools. He said he is down more than a dozen sworn officers, and he needs officers who previously worked in schools to cover patrol shifts.
"Right now that was important to me," Gullberg said. "Reallocating our personnel to meet the needs of our community."
"The school resource officer program is critically important to our schools and an essential part of our school safety equation," the Gresham-Barlow School District said in a statement. "We are contacting other law enforcement agencies to determine if there are other options available to us during this time."
"For the families that may be worried, we're being proactive," Padilla said.
According to Padilla, Reynolds School District administrators are also talking to other law enforcement agencies. Padilla said the district is hoping deputies with Multnomah County can provide security at H.B. Lee Middle School and other district schools that are not within Gresham city limits.
"To be able to provide training to our staff on what escalation looks like with students, how to prevent early escalation, de-escalation tactics and how to recognize that is important," Padilla said.
The City of Gresham will reinstate SROs as soon as possible.
Meantime, the city currently receives grant funding from the state. Among other things, the funding goes toward youth violence prevention. These resources are available to the three school districts in Gresham.