A student advisory group created by the St. Paul school board last fall to ensure students have a voice on potentially weighty subjects is embarking on its first project -- and it is a timely one.
How do students get along with police officers in their schools?
The officers in question are student resource officers (SROs) -- not the security guards who monitor who goes in and out of buildings -- and members of the SPPS Student Engagement and Advancement Board are asking their peers to fill out a survey about their interactions with the officers.
The student group wants to know if an SRO makes a student feel welcome, safer or contributes to his or her ability to succeed in school. An officer, for example, could have served as a mentor, helped in a classroom or asked the student about his or her school work, the survey says.
The group is expected to report its findings to the school board in February.
In a Facebook video introducing the project, four students who are members of the advisory group said that it also wanted opinions on whether the SROs should remain in the schools. But district officials have made clear that the SROs are in the schools to stay, and that the survey will help determine what's working well and what kind of training should be made available to the officers.
The survey topic had been suggested last year by the then-outgoing school board.
St. Paul now has nine SROs. Seven work in the high schools and two are "roving officers." The annual budget is $954,214, with the school district covering $854,214 and the city picking up $100,000.
At Central High, the SRO who responded to a report of a student choking a teacher during a cafeteria melee last month was allegedly charged at by the student after the incident and had to call for back up to keep the 16-year-old from returning to the cafeteria, a criminal complaint in the case states.
The St. Paul school board created the student advisory team as a way to bring the voices of young people into board-level discussions. In doing so, board members decided against appointing a student member to sit alongside them -- an approach used in Minneapolis and elsewhere.