School Board discusses SROs, KU Blueprint Classes

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School Board discusses SROs, KU Blueprint Classes

By Nadia Sanburn and Iris Sherron

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School board members approved new KU Blueprint classes for students and discussed SROs during their meeting Monday night.

There was a good deal of controversy surrounding the discussion of SROs in schools, a hotly debated issue in the district as the city has sought district help in funding the jobs. 

Board member Kelly Jones said data regarding the treatment of students of color was left out of the presentation given to board members, and she had done her own research to prepare. 

“In district’s utilizing school-based policing, approximately 30 percent nationwide, research shows a higher rate of suspensions, expulsions and arrests, especially for students of color,” Jones said. 

She also backed up her points with data from the Lawrence Police Department.

“Black juveniles were six times more likely than white juveniles to be arrested by Lawrence police officers, Native American juveniles were 2.4 times more likely than white juveniles to be arrested,” Jones said. 

The survey showed that more Free State students knew their SROs than those at LHS. Lawrence High recently had turnover in its SROs after both officers were promoted last semester. The relationship building between SROs and students was a widely-discussed topic as well. 

“Most of the students could name the security guards, and they couldn’t name the SROs because they didn’t have the relationships with them,” board member GR Gordon-Ross said. 

After hearing critisism from other board members, Superindent Anthony Lewis made it clear he would not allow students to face discrimination or be targeted as a result of police presence in schools. 

“I’m hopeful that everyone understands that I am not going to be a key player in continuing those disparities and putting my kids, all 12,400 of mine, in a situation where they are going to be targeted or criminalized,” Lewis said.

 

KU Blueprint

Also on Monday, the board approved the addition of new KU Blueprint classes to be offered to Lawrence High and Free State students.

Jennifer Bessolo, district curriculum director, gave a presentation sharing data from the previous classes and a description of the ones newly added. The district approved the addition of Spanish 322, Biology 101, Biology 102, Advanced Weights, and Heritage Spanish. KU Blueprint classes are offered in the high schools and taught by LHS teachers but allow students to earn KU credit at the same time.

Paula Smith voiced her wishes for Haskell to be included in plans such as these. 

“Is there a possibility of partnering with Haskell Indian Nations University Blueprint?” Smith said. “Because a lot of our Native American students could really gain entry into that tribal university, and that will build their self esteem and confidence to want to go into secondary.”

Carole Cadue-Blackwood also voiced her support for a program such as this. 

“It’s there, it’s just a matter of being able to make the connection between the school district and Haskell,” Cadue-Blackwood said.