School Board Receives Proposal to Replace SROs

Change Would Lead to New Supports for Students at School

The Des Moines Public Schools Board of Directors is considering a district administration proposal to end the School Resource Officer (SRO) program, a joint agreement between DMPS and the Des Moines Police Department spanning more than 10 years, in favor of more progressive ways to serve students, staff and the community.

“DMPS and DMPD have worked together throughout our existence and will continue to do so in the years to come, but now is a time for us all to re-consider the interests of our community and consider new approaches,” said Superintendent Thomas Ahart. “I appreciate the opportunity to work with Chief Wingert as we developed this transition and am most grateful for the input and engagement of our students, families and staff in looking at new approaches.”

DMPS has thoroughly reviewed the SRO program over the past several months. The process included feedback from multiple student groups, community forums, community organizations, anti-racist town hall meetings, and perspective-based surveys representing almost 90 percent of stakeholders. In addition, DMPS examined historical arrest data, referral data, and the SRO program model.

In DMPS surveys, parents were the most favorable toward the SRO program, with 66 percent of parents positively responding to the importance of SROs in school. Students (grades 6-12) had a 53 percent positive response rate to SROs in general, and with only 42 percent responding positively to the question “How helpful is it to have a school resource officer at your school?” Narrowing to high school students, only 38 percent responded positively to the same question. Staff responded with 33 percent positively to the question “How important is it to have a school resource officer in your building?”

In addition, when analyzing the data from the SRO program, students of color, specifically Black students, have significantly more interaction with SROs. This has led to almost six times more arrests than white peers. despite white students constituting twice the population of Black students.

“The decision to remove SROs does not represent less safety in schools,” said Culture and Climate Director Jake Troja. “On the contrary, DMPS will reinvest the dollars associated with the SRO program into building better and more robust systems of support, to ensure a safe and community-centered learning environment.”

The reinvestment with be in ordinance with Board Limitation 2.10, which demands integrated services specifically designed to support student and staff social and emotional wellbeing.

The proposal was presented to the School Board at their February 2 meeting, and will be considered on February 16. The presentation and document being presented to the School Board can be downloaded below: