BSD is currently in the process of reforming and renewing its School Resource Officer Program, with the aim of launching a new program structure in fall 2022. This body of work has been ongoing in partnership with district administrators and the Bellevue Police Department.
Background – Shifting from School Resource Officer to Community Engagement Officer
When schools shifted to remote learning during March 2020, School Resource Officers (SRO) assigned to the Bellevue School District returned to regular patrol duties in the community. Shortly thereafter, in response to the death of individuals at the hands of law enforcement, the Washington State Legislature passed laws requiring changes to SRO Programs in K-12 settings. This included specialized training for assigned officers and a yearly review of any implemented program.
An Advisory Committee was established in October 2020, and the BSD community began to critically examine the role of law enforcement in our schools. This Advisory Committee produced two possible options going forward with the SRO Program: Option 1 – Reform, or Option 2 – Transform. These options were presented to Interim Superintendent Jarvis who chose Option 1 – Reform.
The district recognizes safety, collaborative problem-solving and relationship building as the most important roles for an officer assigned to the school district. With the importance of community and relationship building being central to these roles, the title of School Resource Officer will be changed to Community Engagement Officer (CEO) to better reflect the expectations and role of the officers assigned to BSD.
The district is in collaboration to finalize an agreement with the City of Bellevue and the Bellevue Police Department to have six CEOs assigned to the school district beginning in fall 2022. These officers will not be assigned to any specific building but will be districtwide resources responsible for responding to and providing support to all BSD schools.
What is the Role of a Community Engagement Officer?
The officers will work to make positive contributions to the school community and overall school safety and help foster trusting relationships between youth and law enforcement.
- CEOs will contribute to the School Safety Teams by ensuring a safe and secure campus, educating students and staff about law, health and safety-related topics, and collaborating with students as informal advisers and role models.
- CEOs will help develop collaborative problem-solving strategies to resolve issues affecting our youth, with the objective of protecting every child so they can reach their fullest potential.
- CEOs will focus on keeping students out of the criminal justice system and will not be used to impose criminal sanctions in matters that are more appropriately handled within the educational system. For example, CEOs will not be involved in enforcing school rules violations or determining and applying school discipline.
Next Steps for the Community Engagement Officer Program
A memorandum of understanding is currently being negotiated with the City of Bellevue. It is anticipated that this will be presented to the Bellevue City Council for review and approval. It is planned that a policy regarding the CEO program will be presented to the BSD Board of directors for community input and approval during the July and August meetings.
More details will be shared with the BSD community throughout the summer, as they are available. Additional resources will also be published to the district website in a space dedicated to the CEO program.