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Tuesday, September 17, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Education

Spokane school board punts on issue of arming school officers

UPDATED: Tue., June 4, 2019, 9:31 p.m.

A pair of Spokane Public School resource officers and a Spokane police officer, right, keep an eye on Lewis and Clark High School students as they arrive for class, Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2019, in downtown Spokane. A social media threat was made against the school and students prompting extra security. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
A pair of Spokane Public School resource officers and a Spokane police officer, right, keep an eye on Lewis and Clark High School students as they arrive for class, Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2019, in downtown Spokane. A social media threat was made against the school and students prompting extra security. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

Apparently the Spokane Public Schools board of directors has moved into lame duck mode regarding one of the district’s most contentious issues: whether to arm campus resource officers.

Two weeks after a national expert urged the district to do just that, Superintendent Shelley Redinger told a committee the current board will leave the issue to its successors.

The board will have at least three new members after the November election, as incumbents Sue Chapin, Deanna Brower and Brian Newberry declined to seek re-election.

“There’s a desire not to make a bunch of big changes,” Redinger told the Restorative Practices Committee. “Doing this in the fall would be tricky, so I don’t see a big move to do something different.”

The issue has already seen delays.

On May 22, the board heard a report from Michael Dorn, executive director of Save Havens International, a nonprofit school safety organization.

Among other recommendations following a seven-month-long study, Dorn urged the arming of campus resource officers.

Dorn’s team also compiled a 180-page report, which the district had hoped to present to the board May 22.

“Unfortunately, the report wasn’t quite finished,” Linda McDermott, associate superintendent for school support services, said Tuesday.

It’s still not ready for release, said McDermott, who cited the need to “make sure of the accuracy of the information” and “give staff a chance to review it and ask questions.”

“When we get it, we will make it available to the public when requested,” said McDermott, who hopes to “use a matrix to make it easier to read.”

McDermott also promised “broader community dialogue” when the issue moves forward. She added the delay is “good timing, because we are in the process of doing our strategic plan.”

The strategic plan covers all aspects of district policy, including security.

The Safe Havens report also is all-encompassing. It outlines some specific ideas for improvements, including better student supervision, better emergency plans and drills, more portable radios and more efficient screening of visitors.

However, Dorn’s central recommendation is to “develop a thoughtfully implemented approach to providing some form of preventive coverage by law enforcement personnel.”

At the same time he noted a deep polarity within the community regarding arming campus resource officers.

“He knows that there’s some history in the community that we have to be sensitive about and pay attention to,” Redinger said.

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