Atlanta school district leaders are considering replacing the city police officers patrolling schools with school resource officers directly accountable to the district.
“We’ve got to be in the business of building meaningful relationships with our students,” Atlanta school board chairman Courtney English said. Atlanta schools need “people who can build relationships without having that strict law enforcement component.”
Startup costs for a district police department — a move the district will “strongly consider” during upcoming budget talks — could run into the millions, English said.
Last week, the district, nonprofit research group WestEd and Georgia State University anounced receipt of a $7.5 million, 5-year federal grant to study how to make local schools safer —and once they figure that out, how other districts nationwide can learn from those efforts.
The grant-funded project will focus on developing a comprehensive approach to school safety. That could include things like hiring school resource officers, teaching children better ways to manage their emotions and relationships and using data to target potential “hotspots.”
“We’re going to let the data dictate the approach we’re going to take,” WestEd researcher Joseph McCrary said.