Council votes down youth outreach officer proposal
- Published: September 16, 2022
At the Tuesday, Sept. 6, meeting, Village Council members voted down a resolution that would place an officer in the Greene County Educational Service Center, or ESC.
The center, located at East Enon Road near the middle and high schools, offers a range of services, including “alternate school and behavior intervention for at-risk students,” according to its website.
The resolution, written at the request of Terry Streiter, the superintendent of the ESC, would have placed an officer in the building as a resource to students and teachers. According to the resolution, the officer would do some outreach with students, but would also have the duty of monitoring students whenever they are on campus or at a school-sanctioned activity. The resolution read, in part:
“The [youth outreach officer] shall report both suspected criminal and noncriminal activity to the principal of the building in which such activity is suspected. The principal shall direct and manage investigations into non-criminal activity according to ESC policies and procedures. Suspected criminal activity shall also be reported to the Chief of the Yellow Springs Department of Police, who shall direct and manage investigations into such activity pursuant to local law and Village policies and procedures.”
The proposed legislation also said that the officer would not have authority to investigate noncriminal student infractions unless support is requested by the superintendent or building principal.
Before a motion was made to open discussion on the resolution, Council member Marianne MacQueen made a motion to table the topic, saying that she wanted more time for Council to discuss the legislation.
Council member Carmen Brown seconded MacQueen’s motion, and Council members discussed the merits of tabling the matter.
“I don’t like to vote on something that we haven’t discussed at Council, something that has some consequences,” MacQueen said.
Council President Brian Housh said he would like to hear why the resolution was brought forth with such urgency, but that he was in favor of the resolution since the Village “had been invited into an institution.”
“It can expand the good work that our department does for the Village,” Housh said.
Council member Kevin Stokes said he found the idea of reimbursement “attractive.”
“It’s like a win-win,” he said.
In response to a question from Housh regarding the urgency of the legislation, Salmerón said that the Village team had been working with the ESC superintendent “for a couple of weeks.”
“We came up with the right language and the right tone,” Salmerón said. “This is not a law enforcement presence in the schools, this is an outreach person. It’s meant to be more proactive engagement rather than getting called for a behavioral issue and officers engaging in a law enforcement role.”
However, according to the proposed legislation, the office would monitor student, staff and visitor activity, with the ability to give citations and make arrests.
Concluding that tabling the legislation would also halt all discussion, MacQueen rescinded her motion to table; instead she asked several questions about the nature of the position and whether an additional officer would be required to fill in for the officer assigned to the school.
“I’m not in favor of expanding our police department,” MacQueen said.
MacQueen also asked if a police officer is what the student needed.
“I assume this is going to be someone with a uniform and a gun,” MacQueen said. “Is a police officer the appropriate support?”
Salmerón said the position would be covered by existing personnel, but the reimbursement would allow the Village to pay for part-time staffing “wherever we need it.” He explained that the ESC had received additional funding for school safety; that funding would reimburse the Village for the officer’s time at the ESC.
“We are already spending a significant amount of time at the facility responding to calls,” Salmerón said. “[An assigned officer would bring] revenue to the police department fund that could be used for other labor expenses.”
In response to MacQueen’s question about the need for an officer versus a social worker, Salmerón said the resolution was the result of a partnership agreement between the ESC and the Village.
“I won’t make a comment on what the children need, but I will comment on what the institution has requested,” Salmerón said. “From an institutional perspective, the ESC needs additional support.”
Florence Randolph, the community outreach specialist for the YSPD spoke to MacQueen’s questions saying that the officer assigned to the school would be familiar with the school, and trained in “trauma informed care.”
According to Randolph, the resolution came out of a meeting with the schools, additional funding from the state and a threat assessment that the state has required all schools to do.
“This is a way to have an officer in the schools for that purpose,” Randolph said.
Council member Gavin DeVore Leonard asked if the state mandated a police officer in schools in order for districts to receive the additional grant funds. In response, Randolph said the ESC already had a social worker, but in order to meet the threat assessment requirement, the school had to have a school resource officer, or SRO.
DeVore Leonard said that he shared some of MacQueen’s concerns about having a police officer in schools.
“The state is incentivising having police officers in schools,” DeVore Leonard said. “I think this gets back to the larger question of how do we contribute to or push back on [police] militarization.”
In response to a question from MacQueen, Village clerk Judy Kintner said the officer would serve about 30 students. DeVore Leonard commented on the low number of students who would be served by the officer.
“The idea of needing a police officer there all the time is just amazing to me,” DeVore Leonard said. “It’s amazing to me that that’s necessary.”
“These are students who have been traumatized,” Randolph said in response. “These are juveniles, some of them on house arrest, who have to be at the school.”
Randolph attempted to waylay concerns about an armed officer in the building, saying the officer is needed to “support students.”
“It’s not about the gun or not having a gun,” Randolph said. “The gun’s not used unless it would be necessary.”
Council members heard two comments from citizens. John Hempfling asked whether installing an officer at the ESC would cost the Village any money. According to the proposal, the SRO would be paid for by the ESC. Speaking as a private citizen, this reporter asked Council members to consider how placing an officer in the school full-time would contribute to the school-to-prison pipeline, which disproportionately affects Black students and other students of color.
Council voted against the measure in a 3–2 decision, with members Brown, MacQueen, and DeVore Leonard voting “no” and members Stokes and Housh voting “yes.”
After the vote, DeVore Leonard said the lack of information made the process difficult, and that he would like to have more time for discussion. He cited several pieces of information, such as cost and the prior relationship between the ESC and the Village that were not shared in the agenda packet prior to the meeting.
“It seems like you want this to pass,” DeVore Leonard said. “If you want it to pass, share more information with us or plan more time for us to talk about it so it feels like it’s not something that is increasing policing in our schools.”
In an email response following the vote, Terry Streiter, superintendent of the ESC, said the ESC and Village were “working on a plan … for a continued partnership.”
“We see the police as a support and resource to our program, staff, students and families,” she wrote.
Additional business from the Sept. 6 Council meeting will appear in next week’s edition of the News.