School Board Approves Changes to SRO Program

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By: 
Cameron Bren

MIDDLETON–The Middleton Cross Plains Area School District (MCPASD) Board of Education approved the district’s first evaluation of the school resource officer (SRO) program and the recommended changes to the program proposed by the district administration.

The SRO program at MCPASD started in the mid-1980s at the high school and later expanded to the middle schools. The program has never been formally evaluated or changed since implementation.   

In June 2020 students, parents and community members called on the City of Middleton to suspend its contract with the MCPASD while the SRO program was reviewed. The Middleton Common Council tabled the contract with MCPASD, which provided police officers at Middleton High and Kromrey Middle School, until the district reviewed the program. 

MCPASD Superintendent Dana Monogue reviewed the recommendations which include evolving the middle school SROs to a ‘community SRO’ which will not be embedded in the building. The job description will be revised, and the district will work with the police departments to plan engagement opportunities.

The recommendation calls for maintaining the SRO at the high school, but they will not be in uniform and dress in plain clothes. The officer will be required to take part in training activities provided by the district and a team will be formed at the high school to provide ongoing feedback and oversee the onboarding process for new SROs.

The recommendation calls for the program to be fully evaluated at least once every five years. The district will also work with the police department to avoid double consequences, Monogue said. A systemwide mental health needs assessment and resource mapping process is also underway.  

Monogue reviewed the survey responses sent out to students, families and staff regarding the SRO program. 

Among parents and guardians, 84 percent favor maintaining the program while 12 percent favor eliminating it. Responses from Black and Latino families were more favorable of eliminating the program. 

Among students, 86 percent support maintaining the program while 10 percent support eliminating it. White students were slightly more favorable of eliminating the program compared to their non-white peers. 

Staff responded with 73 percent supporting maintaining the program compared to 25 percent in support eliminating it. Non-white staff supported eliminating the program at about double the percentage of white staff. 

Monogue noted that there have been no formal complaints regarding SROs filed in Cross Plains. There have been two filed in Middleton but after investigation one case was deemed unfounded while the other the officer was exonerated.

Monogue said situations in the schools that call for SRO involvement include significant physical altercations, narcotics possession and distribution, weapons, threats to the school environment, inappropriate use of technology and theft. The SRO may be involved in issues outside the school including domestic violence, sexual harassment and assault, she noted. 

Monogue added that the Middleton Police Department supports the recommendation for the officer to dress in plain clothes though for the Cross Plains department that may be more difficult since it is a smaller force, and the SRO may be needed for backup. 

Board member Bob Green asked if the Cross Plains department has enough resources for additional training. Monogue said in speaking with the department and municipality there is support for the district’s goals.

New board member Brian Bonti asked if the board will be able to make changes to the program later on if the evaluation and recommended changes are approved. Monogue said the board needs to approve the contracts every year. Going forward feedback from the high school team and middle school principals will be provided at that time.

Monogue said with the recommended changes approved the updated contracts will go next to the municipalities in Middleton and Cross Plains for approval.

New board member Gail Shepler asked what the change in job description will look like. Monogue said there will be more intentional engagement and community based activities.

New board member Simrnjit Seerha asked about having a system in place for filing a complaint. Monogue said the district can receive complaints or they can go directly to either police department.

Seerha asked when the revised job description will be finished. Monogue said it should be finished over the summer before school starts in the fall.

Board member Paul Kinne said he feels the recommended changes are a good start and further changes can be made as needed.

“I think we should give this a try for the year and take a look at it next year and over the course of this year to see if further improvements can be made,” Kinne said.

Seerha asked when the board would discuss the program again. Monogue suggested having a board discussion quarterly.

Bonti said he would like more data on the types of cases the SROs are involved in and what kind of citations they are issuing in future discussions.  

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