From The Trussville Tribune staff reports
TRUSSVILLE — The Trussville City School system is working with the Trussville Police Department on a proposed agreement outlining the responsibilities of School Resource Officers (SROs) and formalizing the service. The Trussville Tribune requested a copy of the proposed agreement following the Monday night work session and monthly meeting, but that request was denied because the BOE had not yet voted on the agreement.
In a second request to Superintendent Dr. Pattie Neill and Board of Education members, the Tribune referenced an Alabama Supreme Court case which ruled that non-complete documents were subject to the Alabama Open Records Act and an Attorney General opinion, but there was no response from the school system. However, the Tribune was able to obtain a copy of the draft through anonymous sources.
City Attorney Rick Stotser helped draft an agreement that he said is needed.
“This is an attempt to gain an understanding of duties and responsibilities of the two entities,” said Stotser.
The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), also establishes a protocol for exchanging information between teachers, the principal, the superintendent and SROs.
“Data regarding incidents occurring on TCS property will be reviewed by TCS and SROs and will be appropriately reconciled,” the draft outlines.
As part of the current draft, the school system and the police department must agree on the appropriate protocol for releasing information to the public.
“TCS and TPD shall consult and agree to determine when/if it is appropriate to share information with the school community/media outlets and the appropriate timeline for doing so,” states the draft.
Superintendent Dr. Pattie Neill said during the work session that such an agreement is standard among many schools with SROs, but this will be the first time TCS has had a formal agreement with TPD.
In some schools, the SROs are funded in whole or in part by the school system. An MOU is helpful in defining who the officers answer to and what protocols must be followed. In Trussville, the SROs are completely funded by the city.
The eight-page document clarifies that the SRO is an employee of the city of Trussville and not of the Board of Education. The city of Trussville is responsible for appointing officers as SROs and the chief of police reserves the authority to make decisions on the assignment and selection of those officers.
The agreement also clarifies the responsibility of TCS employees, concerning discipline, safety and security of all students.
When a crime is reported on campus, SROs have the right to question students with the principal or a designee present, according to the MOU. The student’s parent would be contacted unless the investigation includes accusations of abuse or neglect. If the arrest of a person on campus is necessary, the SRO and school administrator will work together to avoid embarrassment to the person, when possible. The agreement states that top priority would be the safety and welfare of students and staff.
If approved, the MOU will be reviewed yearly.
The Board of Education will vote on the agreement at its next meeting on Monday, Dec. 16, 2019. The school system said minor changes could be made to the agreement in the meantime.