WATSONVILLE—The Pajaro Valley Unified School District Board of Trustees on Wednesday voted to permanently end its School Resource Officer program at Watsonville, Pajaro Valley and Aptos high schools, and to redirect the funds to socio-emotional counselors.
The district will also look into creating wellness centers and cultural sensitivity programs.
The motion passed 5-2, with Trustees Daniel Dodge, Jr. and Georgia Acosta dissenting.
About 40 people emailed comments to the board before the vote, most of whom advocated for removing the officers.
The program cost PVUSD $405,265 annually for one Watsonville Police officer at Watsonville High and one at Pajaro Valley High, and one Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s deputy at Aptos High School.
The trustees were set to vote on removing the school officers for only the 2020-21 school year, and to use the funds for socio-emotional counselors, but Trustee Maria Orozco made the motion to make the decision permanent.
Trustees Acosta and Dodge expressed concern that the move would make it difficult for the district to work with county law enforcement officials in the future.
SROs receive special training to work on school campuses, including implicit bias and de-escalation. They conduct welfare checks and home visits and connect at-risk students to diversion programs. They also work with attendance specialists and parents in trying to keep kids in school.
But many people who commented-and several trustees-worried that police presence on campus criminalizes behavior that can be better addressed by counselors and other programs.
In removing the officers, PVUSD joins districts throughout the nation that are questioning the programs. Oakland Unified School District Board of Trustees in June eliminated that district’s program, which placed 10 officers on campuses.
This story will be updated.