Message to attendees of Community Conversations for Wellness and Supportive Roseville Area Schools
Throughout July and into early August, more than 200 people participated in our four-part series of Community Conversations on Wellness and Supportive Roseville Area Schools. The series was held in the wake of the murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, which galvanized communities across the country to protest police brutality and the murder of unarmed Black men and women at the hands of police officers. The tragedy spurred conversations about the historical trauma inflicted by society and police on people of color, especially African Americans, and renewed debates about the role of police officers in schools.
Shortly after Mr. Floyd’s murder, we received emails from recent graduates advocating for eliminating the police liaison officer positions at RAHS and RAMS. The community conversations offered an opportunity for the community to discuss safety in schools, including specific discussions about the role of our police liaison officers. We held a panel discussion bringing together voices of administrators and students who shared perspectives, and two things became increasingly clear in the process. First, many of our students don’t know what the purpose is for having an SRO present in school. We all heard passionate discussion from several administrators of color who argue that we are doing things differently in Roseville when it comes to our work with our liaison officer, but that rationale has not necessarily been made clear to our students. Second, it is clear that we need more engagement on this matter with our current students of color.
The feedback on this issue—and on many others concerning racial equity, racism and systemic injustices–from these sessions was invaluable and will guide our work moving forward. It is also going to fuel action and engagement with our students to draw them into the conversations begun in our circles and ensure their crucial voices are heard. In the short term, we recommended a one-year renewal of the contract with the Roseville Police Department to our school board this week, and it was approved.
Now, that doesn’t mean we are accepting the status quo. We have been working collaboratively with Roseville PD and the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office to implement immediate changes for the upcoming school year. As a first step, both police departments have agreed that starting this school year, officers will wear casual uniforms (e.g., polo shirts). Administrators will continue to work with students to take measures to eliminate trauma caused by the presence of officers in schools and make recommendations for improvements. RAHS and RAMS have committed to making changes to improve the lived experiences of students of color with police liaison officers, including increasing student voice by holding monthly meetings with students—especially students of color—and involving students on future police liaison officer interview teams. They will also provide space for students and staff to engage with Student Support Services regarding trauma brought on by police presence, and provide better information about why an officer is in the building for education and relationship-building purposes.
At the end of the 2020-2021 school year, administrators will evaluate the impact of these changes and recommend a continuation of the police liaison model or a different model altogether. The police liaison officer model and contracts with Roseville PD and the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office will also be reassessed as part of this process.
We committed to you that we would keep you informed about the outcome of these discussions. This is far from the only outcome we will have to discuss together in the coming months. We are all grateful for your participation, for your engagement, your honesty, and your commitment to the wellbeing and safety of all our students. I also want to again thank dr. raj for his facilitation, the circle keepers who led our discussions, the Minnesota Humanities for their expertise and ongoing partnership, and to the City of Roseville for their willingness to engage in difficult conversations alongside us. This is difficult work, and seeing to the wellbeing of our students is our enduring commitment.
Dr. Aldo Sicoli