Tempe Union Governing Board

Tempe Union Governing Board members held an emergency closed-door meeting last week on the resolution they passed in a 3-2 vote Oct. 13 that would eliminate school resource officers at all campuses by August.

Tempe Union High School Governing Board may not like school resource officers, but Kyrene School District thinks theirs are doing a great job.

“We see it as part of our whole support system – counselors, our interventionists, our SROs,” Superintendent Laura Tonejes told the Ahwatukee Foothills News in a recent interview.

Describing SROs as part of a “wraparound service " for children, Toenjes said administrators have spent time with Tempe Police "talked about some of the really great things around education with SROs and how they can support our schools. 

"That way, it’s not always a punitive thing. And so we can start to value the other side of this and see how we can become partners. I think there’s a lot of value.”

Toenjes said it's unlikely that Kyrene would follow Tempe Union in eliminating the SROs that are at most  of the district’s middle schools.

“At this point there is no discussion of that,” Toenjes said. “I don’t anticipate there being a discussion.”

Meanwhile, some unknown problems apparently have emerged in connection with the resolution that aims to get uniformed officers off the six Tempe Union campuses by next August.

The board in a 3-2 vote on Oct. 13 approved the resolution, but it became the subject of an emergency closed-door meeting of the board on Oct. 25.

The agenda for the executive session only indicated that the resolution was the topic. All school district officials are forbidden by law from disclosing the nature or details of executive sessions.

But an informational item on the agenda for the board’s meeting at 7 p.m. today. Nov. 3, states, “At the Nov. 17 meeting or at an earlier date and time, Governing Board members will discuss and provide possible revisions to the Resolution that was approved at the Oct. 13 meeting.”

Led by board President Brian Garcia, the board until Oct. 13 seemed to be moving in unison to eliminate SROs, contending they constitute an intimidating and “militaristic” presence on campus and that they tend to be harsher in their treatment of students of color than white students.

The move has been applauded by a number of students and parents – mostly at Desert Vista High – but opposed by numerous community leaders as well as all six Tempe Union school principals.

But a rare split occurred on the board over that resolution and a related move that blocked a contract with Phoenix Police to provide SROs at Desert Vista and Mountain Pointe high schools for the rest of the current school year.

Board members Andres Barraza and Berdetta Hodge voted against the resolution on grounds that their colleagues had failed to adequately research how students, school staff, parents and the rest of the Tempe Union feel about SROs

Barraza and Hodge also favored the SRO contract for Desert Vista and Mountain Pointe but that failed after Garcia abstained and board members Sarah James and Armando Montero – who vehemently criticized Phoenix Police – voted against the proposed agreement.

The board’s failure  to approve the $270,000 contract with Phoenix leaves Mountain Pointe and Desert Vista with what Superintendent Dr. Kevin Mendivil called “a revolving door” of officers that provides no chance for the development of a relationship between police and the school communities.

Tempe Union spokeswoman Megan Sterling stressed, “There has been a daily presence on campus since the start of this school year” at both Ahwatukee campuses. 

“They are off-duty officers, and it is not a consistent person,” she said. “You could have five different people there during the course of the week – hence a ‘revolving door.’” 

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