Questions surrounding the contracting of a school resource officer for the 2020-2021 school year arose at the USD 503 school board meeting Monday night.

During discussion over the first reading of Parsons High School staff handbook, board member Lou Martino asked Superintendent Lori Ray if the Parsons police chief had read over it.

“With all the stuff that is going on, the choke holds and knees on necks, I’m looking at this and I’m really kind of leery, because the chief said he was going to make four major changes to the police department and more transparency, and we’re going to be voting on a school resource officer, which is another issue we’re going to want to discuss in 2020. Nothing against Chris (Gabbert), but I’m looking at some of this seclusion. I just wonder if the chief has reviewed this again with what’s going on in the United States right now.”

Ray said she has not spoken to the chief, but the document is part of the Emergency Seclusion Intervention Policy.

“I understand. So the chief has not reviewed this?” Martino asked.

Ray said the chief has not reviewed the ESI policy again.

“Are you referring to the prohibited types of restraints, or the whole thing?” Ray asked.

“When we vote on a school resource officer, I would like to see what the updated job description is for 2020, because a lot of police officers are resigning right now and some schools aren’t hiring school resource officers. They are putting their money elsewhere,” Martino said. “I’m not trying to put Chris Gabbert down, I’m just trying to say that it is something to discuss with the chief so that we’re all on the same page.”

“But it is also something to discuss, too, if we see a need, right?” board member Joan Thompson said. “Because like some places may not see a need to have them and we see the need.”

Martino said he wants to know what the chief will allow an officer to do compared to what the board will allow the officer to do.

Thompson pointed out the policy in place was sanctioned by the Kansas Association of School Boards, and Assistant Superintendent Linda Proehl said the policy states what school staff, including the school resource officer, cannot do.

Martino said the policy was written before what has happened in the past two months.

Thompson said she would bet the policy matches what is going on right now and what you cannot do but said they could get the chief’s input to see what he says.

Martino asked about handcuffs and if an officer is allowed to use them.

Ray said there is a point where it becomes a police matter and not a school matter and that determines what they do or don’t do.

Martino said that needs separated and explained so it is clear to the general public so they know what the board is talking about.

“Because if you allow the police in your school, how do you separate out he’s a school resource officer but he’s a Parsons policeman?” Martino asked. “The police part supersedes the school resource officer to some degree.

Thompson said the handbook is about what faculty cannot do, not police.

“So what you want to know is what the police policies are and what that might look like in the school?” Ray said.

Martino said the police policies and school policies have some co-mingling, but Proehl and Ray reiterated that school personnel, according to the policies, cannot do any of the restraints listed.

Martino said after hearing Chief Robert Spinks speak at the Black Lives Matter protest, he thinks he has a good handle on what the schools should be doing and shouldn’t be doing, as he is changing the way things are done in Parsons.

Martino said as far as school resource officers, Deputy Police Chief Dennis Dodd had built up a really good rapport with students that was about trust.

“And he happened to be African American, which for what is happening right now made it even better,” Martino said. “Chris is a good guy and I think he’s built relationships, but I would certainly like to know what his new job description is going to be, because Dennis would come to my leadership studies class and he would talk about handcuffing, and he would talk about mace and he’d talk about ticketing if people didn’t have their seat belts on. He talked about arresting people and taking them to jail. He just made kids understand, ‘This is what my job is. If you have questions, keep asking.’ And that’s a good thing. He was also a part of the student council so being a part of the school and teaching is, in my opinion, a good thing to have for the school resource officer. It takes some of the load off the teachers as well as some of the counselors.”

Martino said he just thinks Ray needs to run the policy by Spinks and see what he thinks needs changed.

Ray said she would contact Spinks to visit with him.

“I don’t want them to become bad guys,” Martino said.

IN OTHER BUSINESS, the board:

— Heard about summer reading for staff being made available, “The Courageous Conversations About Race,” and “White Fragility Why It’s Hard for White People to Talk About Racism,”

— Heard Ray is taking a free professional development class through the Diversity and Resilience Institute of El Paso. The class is about anti-racism, and once she finishes it she will then send the link out to staff if they want to watch it.

— Heard technology trainings are going well.

— Heard there will be staff training regarding easing students back into school.

— Heard teachers will be offered professional development in August about micro aggression. 

— Heard around 50 kindergarten  through third grade students are participating in summer boost program, in which learning buckets are delivered to the children’s homes weekly.

— Heard work continues on the facilities assessment. Buildings are now being painted inside and the beginning of August, gym floors will be redone. HVAC at the high school got hit by lightning and the district is looking at repairs. There is discussion still about the soccer field beside PHS, and setting a meeting with Shawn Hill.

— Heard about 12 Parsons High School students are participating in ingenuity credit recovery. About 29 more are working to complete credits from spring semester.

— Approved participation in Greenbush Energy Group and Hedging Authorization for 2020-2021.

— Approved a contract with nTherm, LLC, to provide natural gas for 2020-2021.

— Approved the food service management contract with Opaa! Food Management Co.

— Approved a 10 cent increase in meal prices.

— Completed first reading of handbooks, the KASB Home Rule Policy and technology acceptable use policy and One-to-One Technology Policy.

— Approved renewal proposals for property liability, cyber liability and workers compensation insurance.

— Approved the cooperative agreement with St. Patrick Catholic School for middle school football, girls tennis, boys tennis, wrestling, boys golf and girls golf.

— The board approved resignations for Charla Cox, mental health liaison; Tina Heydenrych, middle school secretary; Brooke Hopper, high school assistant girls basketball coach; Megan Wade, Lincoln secretary; Jamie Wells, high school girls assistant basketball coach.

— Hired Sally Clay, PHS cross country coach; Gabby Hinman, PHS assistant volleyball coach; Kyle Hostetter, PHS assistant wrestling coach; Jeff Schibi, PHS head football coach; and Jamie Wells, summer school teacher.

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