La Crosse Police respond to school board proposal on future of SROs

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – The current contract between the La Crosse Police Department and the La Crosse School District is set to expire next June. To renew the contract to keep School Resource Officers, or SROs, in La Crosse schools, it would cost the district $250,000.

School board president Laurie Cooper Stoll says, there are two big concepts that are weighed when making a decision like this…

“Good fiscal management. that’s a lot of money, what are we getting for that money, what does the data show? What do stakeholders think about that?” said Cooper Stoll. “And the other piece to this is… whether or not this aligns with our educational goals in the district.”

The La Crosse Police say, SROs are important for school safety, but service other needs for the school.

“There’s the ability for us to interact with the kids and develop relationships and provide some level of programming in the schools that improves the relationships with law enforcement and youth,” said Cpt. Jason Melby.

Some of the programming Police bring to schools include the D.A.R.E. curriculum, which aims to educate students on drug abuse resistance. But, Cooper Stoll says more research needs to be done to see if those relationships are being made or if they’re making a positive difference.

“Data indicates that when there is an officer in the school, it increases the likelihood of students being ticketed or, there being a link there, to that criminal justice system,” said Cooper Stoll.

“We partner with that school and have the principal and an administrator from the school district come in and sit down, and conduct interviews with us,” said Melby.

Melby says this gives them the opportunity to have a strong partnership and the right fit.

“The discussion started coming up about defunding the SROs.. we were a little surprised and disappointed. We’ve got a 25 year plus partnership with the school district and it’s a very strong partnership,” said Melby.

Cooper Stoll says the school board will also weigh the pros and cons of other alternatives to SROs, such as crisis management workers and social workers.