Jefferson County school district, the largest in the State of Colorado has never had a formal agreement or memorandum of understanding to pinpoint the purpose of law enforcement presence in their schools. Operation School Resource Officer (SRO)- what is the purpose? Today, Denver Public Schools long awaited grasp on the role of SRO’s in their public schools is becoming reality thus fostering collaboration with kids, parents, school officials and a sense of pride for kid’s being able to connect to their learning environment. Meanwhile, in Jefferson County…
At the June 7, 2012 Jeffco R1 regular board of education meeting, Superintendent Dr. Cindy Stevenson presented an award, the first ever of its kind, to the, “School Resource Officer of the Year”, Sgt. Jim Parr of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department. Again, with no understanding for the level of involvement this sergeant has in the public schools, his award was presented to him by the superintendent on the basis of, “Sgt. Parr’s commitment to excellence, professionalism and guidance has had a lasting and positive impact on the lives of thousands of Jefferson County students and staff.”
The Jefferson County Sheriff’s office currently maintains the largest school resource officer unit in the county with 10 deputies and a sergeant assigned to the public schools- at the expense of county operations. County operation over sight is governed by the county commissioners- all three county commissioners at this time take no public position on the condition of the public schools nor the $752,308 in taxpayer supported salary expenditures, not including benefits, to support the SRO unit of the Sheriff’s Department.
Immediately following the presentation of the award given to Sgt. Parr at this same meeting on June 7, 2012, Jeffco School Board President, Lesley Dahlkemper, presented yet another award. This award, again the first ever of its kind, “to recognize the volunteer efforts of School Resource Officer and Jefferson County Sheriff’ Deputy Greg Everhart for six years of school and community interactions providing critical awareness for life safety for students.”
On April 16th, 2012, approximately two months prior to receiving his award from the school board president for his volunteer efforts, Deputy Everhart gave a presentation to an auditorium full of parents at D’Evelyn High School in Jefferson County. During this presentation, the deputy shared many experiences in his role as a school resource officer although he failed to differentiate his roles between paid and volunteer service. Deputy Everhart speaking for other paid law enforcement personnel has been able to address issues that are according to him, “destroying kids’ lives.” Deputy Everhart appeared to have a keen sense for what is considered appropriate for a 10 year old to be “convicted to the sex offender registry until he’s 35 years old.” Deputy Everhart states, “it’s very serious business…as a school resource officer we are basically tasked with being a liaison with the schools to solve problems, bottom line.” What problems are being solved?
Jefferson County School’s continue to outpace Denver Public School’s referrals to law enforcement by nearly four times in 2012 and Jeffco leads the state in the number of kids referred to law enforcement of any Colorado public school district.
Top 5 School Districts in number of kid’s referred to law enforcement in 2012: (source: Colorado Dept. of Education)
- Jefferson County- 1,984
- Adams 12- 1,099
- Cherry Creek- 846
- Adams- Arapahoe 28J (Aurora)- 654
- Denver County Schools- 512
Deputy Everhart, during this hour long plus presentation on April 16th, 2012 provided his personal insight and gave examples of how he is handling situations with his own child. Deputy Everhart also shared with parents and school staff in attendance at this presentation a more defined role of the school resource officer in these words(video clip @ 8:10) “ if you come to us in confidence and say hey man, my kid’s…I don’t know what’s going on…I’m really angry right now, I want somebody to scare the crap out of them, we’re really good at that, let us know, set up a meeting, we will help you guys out anyway we possibly can.”
Police state presence in Jeffco schools with no understanding of their intended purpose poses a lingering threat to the civil liberties of a younger generation. The safety and security of law enforcement involvement in the schools plays lead into what many parents have come to expect as a way to prevent another Columbine tragedy. What preventative measures of action by law enforcement have played a role in preventing such great tragedy within the public schools? Is it simply a matter of deputy/officer presence? The authoritarian role of a police state may very well be present within Jefferson County, in order to replace parent involvement.
Can it be determined that the role of police presence within the schools is having a resounding impact on the safety of our children? Suffice it to say that perhaps the power to arrest and intimidate has surpassed the goal of protecting kid’s in Jefferson County Schools. Rather than focus on student achievement, superintendent Dr. Cindy Stevenson is presenting awards to law enforcement personnel for touching the lives of thousands of kid’s. Dr. Stevenson wouldn’t be able to explain with any certainty what it means to have thousands of lives impacted by law enforcement contact as she remains unable to produce a defined intergovernmental agreement- so that parent’s might understand what is affecting their own children on a daily basis at the expense of all taxpayers.