U-46 mandates new training for school resource officers
School resource officers serving in Elgin-area schools must be trained on nonviolent crisis intervention techniques and special needs awareness, officials at Elgin Area School District U-46 said Monday.
The U-46 school board discussed spending roughly $1 million in contract renewals with the city of Elgin and the villages of Bartlett, South Elgin and Streamwood to hire six school resource officers for the district's high schools and eight officers for its middle schools.
School board members in the past cited a need for additional training for officers in one of the suburbs' most diverse school districts, stemming from the disproportionate number of Black students who end up being disciplined.
The contracts mandate two days of training sessions for school resource officers each year in the Crisis Prevention Institute's nonviolent crisis intervention course used by U-46 staff members to de-escalate situations, and in separate sessions to learn how to work with students with special needs.
"As the parent of an autistic child, I'm very happy to see the specific autism-based training happening," school board member Kate Thommes said. "The knowledge that you're going to make sure that these officers understand how to deal with these kids better is appreciated."
CPI training will be provided in August of each school year by a U-46 CPI-certified instructor to each new batch of school resource officers. Also, the district's Student Specialized Services Department will provide special needs training, said Richard Bosh, U-46 coordinator of school safety and a former police officer and school resource officer with the Bartlett Police Department.
"Things like enhancing student voice and ... working with students and building those relationships ... it's something that's highlighted much more prominently than it was in the previous (contract) language," said Brian Lindholm, U-46 chief of staff.
School resource officers will act in the capacity of law enforcement, teachers and informal counselors/mentors, but they will not enforce school rules, policy or discipline. They will give presentations to students, staff members and parents "to support and empower schools to be welcoming centers of family and community engagement," per the contract.
"SROs, explicitly in our training, are not allowed to be involved in student discipline," U-46 Superintendent Tony Sanders said. "That is strictly on the deans and the principal, and that school's staff. Only if it rises to the level of criminal offense of some sort that must be reported, then they do get involved, but for discipline, they are not involved."
Sanders said since most school resource officers come from the Elgin Police Department, the district will partner with Elgin's youth empowerment program organized by Police Chief Ana Lalley, which aims to reduce the over-identification of students who are in trauma.