School resource officer on hold at Scriber Lake in Edmonds

Decision comes after parents say they wanted more information
By Brian Soergel | May 06, 2019

The day before another school shooting in the U.S., this one in Denver on Tuesday that left one person dead – the 13th school shooting this year – the placing of an armed school resource officer on the campus of the former Woodway High School campus is on hold after several parents raised concerns at an Edmonds School District board meeting.

The Edmonds campus is home to Scriber Lake – where the officer would be placed – and Edmonds Heights, both alternative high schools enrolling students throughout the district. The campus is also home to the VOICE program.

"We are standing down per (the district’s) request,” said Police Chief Al Compaan. “We will see what the future brings."

A major concern brought forth by Edmonds Heights parents was the idea of an armed police officer, as well as the presence of law enforcement on campus, which they say could be disrupting. The campus now has a retired police officer, who is unarmed, on duty full time.

“The parents who came to the board meeting I think represented one point of view,” said Greg Schwab, district assistant superintendent for middle and high schools. “There are other points of view out there, too. We just need to make sure that we gather information to give people an opportunity to tell us their concerns and ask us questions.”

The decision to punt on an officer on campus, known colloquially as an SRO, means no police presence at the beginning of the 2020-21 school year, Schwab said.

“We're not saying we're not going to do it, but we realized that between now and the start of next school year, if we're going to really truly do the right amount of work together and collect feedback, we need to take the time to do it right.”

The Edmonds City Council approved funds for the SRO at Scriber Lake during its 2019 budget hearings. This position was to be funded with the same-cost sharing arrangement the City has with the Edmonds School District at Edmonds-Woodway High School.

SROs are sworn police officers responsible for promoting safety, security and a positive learning environment. They work closely with parents, teachers, administrators, students, community members and police staff.

It was in September that Edmonds Police Officer Tom Smith became the SRO at Edmonds-Woodway. He had the same position from 2004 through 2010, but the recession eventually forced the district to stop funding its 50-50 portion of the salary.

Meadowdale High School in Lynnwood also has a school resource officer.

“The main thing is creating connections with kids,” Smith said from his campus office last year. “Creating an environment where they feel comfortable talking with police, so that when they go out into the world, their first contact with them isn’t with a traffic stop or with a negative experience.”

But some parents with students at Edmonds Heights – a flexible, parent-school partnership program that provides shared educational resources and supports parents who choose to be the primary educators of their children – say they have been trained in active-shooter drills, which an SRO is also trained for.

While Edmonds Heights offers multiage classes designed to supplement home-based learning for students on a modified schedule, much like a community college, Scriber Lake serves many at-risk and special-needs students.

Some Edmonds Heights parents also say they want more information of the effectiveness of a police officer on campus.

But Schwab said a single officer would have an overall positive impact.

“We have a belief that the SRO is one of the highest standards for campus safety,” Schwab said. “But we also know that there are students who may be impacted in negative ways by the presence of a police officer.”

Even though talks are ongoing, Schwab said the school district’s position is that the SRO model is critically important to the safety security, especially for its larger campuses, which the former Woodway High is.

“The primary responsibility of security on a campus is really about building relationships between the community and law enforcement,” he said. “This is just another opportunity to do that, to build up relationships between police officers and students.”



 

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