Fewer police officers expected in schools

May 25, 2017 | G. Michael Dobbs

SPRINGFIELD  – School Superintendent Daniel Warwick said the new memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the School Department and the Police Department reduces the number of police assigned to the city’s schools.

Warwick told the School Committee at its meeting on May 18 the decline in arrests at schools prompted the decline in the number of officers.

The new document further defines how school officials should work with the officers. The MOU discusses where and when the officers will work and delineates the difference between disciplinary actions taken by school officials and offenses the require police intervention.

The document notes, “The Springfield Support Unit (SSU) officers are responsible for responding to misdemeanor and felony offenses, Springfield Public School’s  (SPS) building-level administrators are responsible for responding to school discipline matters. The SSU Officer shall immediately notify the SPS’s building-level administrators following an arrest of a student whether that arrest occurred on school property or off-school property. The SPS building-level administrator shall immediately notify the student’s parent or guardian following an arrest of a student on school property.”

The document specifies in what instances a SSU can conduct a search of a student’s person, possessions or locker and in what circumstances should an officer be present to for questioning a student about misconduct.

The previous MOU had been criticized by the advocacy group Neighbor to Neighbor that had submitted a three-page document of possible improvements to the language of the new agreement.

School Committee member Christopher Collins said, “This is a much better document than it used to be.” Collins said that previous contracts were not as clear.

Mayor Domenic Sarno said having police officers in the schools has been a successful program. “Relationships built between our students and the police have been tremendous,” he said.

Warwick also told the committee of several honors the district has received.  The Magnet Schools of America named the Springfield Renaissance School the 2017 Secondary Magnet School of the year. Warwick said the recognition reflects the staff’s and faculty’s “tremendous level of commitment to our kids.”

Magnet School Director Joshua Bogin described the academic offerings at the school as “unique, innovative and carefully nurtured programs.”

The city’s schools were also honored by Forbes Magazine as one of the nation’s 2017 Best Midsize Employers. Springfield Public Schools placed 146th out of 301 honored employers.

Employees were surveyed anonymously through an online service.

Warwick thanked the School Committee for approving labor contracts that have resulted in positive working conditions. He said that such a response from teachers in an urban setting was “absolutely incredible.”

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