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Beaverton School District weighs benefits of school resource officers

A 120-page report commissioned by the city and district weighed the benefits of school resource officers from the perspective of parents, students and staff.

BEAVERTON, Ore. — Dozens of school districts across the country have eliminated their school resource officer (SRO) programs amid heated debate over how effective they are at keeping students safe. 

Oregon's two largest districts — Portland Public Schools and Salem-Keizer School District — both did away with SROs within the past couple years. Now the third-largest district in the state, Beaverton School District, is taking a closer look at its own SRO program. 

Monday morning, the Beaverton School Board went through findings of a 120-page report on the program, jointly commissioned by the city of Beaverton and the district. The report is based on input from more than 8,700 parents, students, school staff, SROs and community members. 

According to the report, 43% of students surveyed supported having SROs in schools, and nearly a third said they didn't know anything about SROs. 

On the other hand, the majority of staff and parents said they did support SROs. 

RELATED: In wake of Texas shooting, debate over school resource officers in Oregon resurfaces

Here's what one of the people involved with the report had to say at Monday's school board meeting: 

"Many people said they really support SROs in part because they believe or want to believe that SROs stop school shootings from occurring, and the evidence simply does not support that perception," she said. "There have been decades of research on this that have not been able to quantitatively prove school shootings are prevented by SROs."

She said recent research found that school shootings where an armed officer was present resulted in a death rate that was nearly three times as high as schools at which there was no officer. 

Meanwhile, the report found less than 20% of students, staff and parents actively opposed SROs in schools. Those who were more likely to oppose them included students who are nonbinary, LGBTQIA+, people of color or disabled. 

The report also referenced disproportionate discipline, arrests and referrals, For instance, Black students make up just 3% of Beaverton's student population, but 14% of arrests and referrals by SROs involved Black students. 

RELATED: Gresham school districts react to pause on school resource officer program

Still, there are differing opinions on whether police have a place in schools. 

For example, school staff including counselors, social workers and psychologists found value in partnerships with police 

Recommendations in the report included things like expanding access to mental health and wellness service and redefining the district's relationship with law enforcement to make it more limited in scope. 

Beaverton's SRO program costs more than $1.5 million a year and is largely paid for by the city and Washington County Sheriff's Office rather than the district. 

There are 11 SROs from three agencies that cover the Beaverton School District's 54 schools. 

The school board did not make any decisions regarding SROs at Monday's board meeting. The superintendent and staff will review the report before making further recommendations. 

As of now, the district still plans to have SROs in schools when the school year starts up again in September. 

To read the full report, click here.

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