Some people like the idea of having police officers in Minneapolis Public Schools, saying it provides an extra level of safety. Others say their presence is threatening.
With the district's contract for the officers set to expire in June, about 60 community members, including students, gathered at the Minneapolis Public Schools central office Monday night to discuss police and their place in schools.
The workshop was hosted by the Minnesota chapter of advocacy group Students for Education Reform.
Students from around the metro area didn't all agree. Some felt School Resource Officers (SRO) are harmless. Others saw them as threatening figures in the halls.
"What is it going to take for students to feel welcome, be safe and achieve?" said Kenneth Eban, managing director of Students for Education Reform Minnesota.
An SRO at Southwest High School used to sit on top of a balcony and radio to other adults about suspicious-looking kids or to intervene, said Collin Robinson, a junior at Southwest.
It looked like prison, he said.
In September, the school board approved a contract extension with the Minneapolis Police Department for officers in schools, even after some community members expressed concerns.
The 16 officers stationed in Minneapolis Public Schools cost almost $1.28 million. That went up by about $75,000 in the contract extension because of a salary increase in SROs' union contract.
Last spring, secondary principals asked for full-time SROs in all middle and high schools, and in some K-8 and high-need elementary schools. They were told the district couldn't afford it.
School board member Kim Ellison and state Human Rights Commissioner Kevin Lindsey were among those at the meeting.
Police officers in schools have been a hot-button topic in St. Paul, where nine officers cost $984,499.