by Jack Mayne In a relatively short meeting Monday night (Oct. 5), the Burien City Council approved a contract to continue a longstanding agreement with Highline Public Schools for a police officer to remain assigned fulltime. The approval of the School Resource officer joint agreement with Highline School District was by a 6-1 vote, with the lone negative vote from Councilmember Lauren Berkowitz. She objected on the grounds that police officers do more harm in schools than they aid students. She said criminalizing school students and having armed police officers in schools was something that should be avoided. In addition, the Council spent a period of time debating fine points in how the city staff and the Councilmembers rate the city managerâ€™s performance, discussing at length what forms should contain and whether forms should all be the same. Gurolâ€™s annual performance assessment is due by yearâ€™s end. Support for school officer Resident Dan Fogerty said the current School Resource officer is more of a resource than a police officer at the schools and often students approach him for help with matters when they have no parents available. â€œI suspect that losing the SRO would cost the city more than the city would save,â€ he said. Resident Ed Dacy said he was surprised at the controversy over extending the joint agreement. The position â€œopens communications between the students and the police, and helps our overall relationship with our citizens and our police department,â€ DacyÂ told the Council. Then resident Charles Schaefer said the teachers do not have time to monitor drugs, weapons or other problems while teaching their classes. After the postponement of a decision two weeks earlier, Highline Principal Victoria Fisher wrote to the city that she believes the School Resource Officerâ€™s â€œpresence prevents many potential altercations, truancies and use of illegal substances.â€ Fisher said the SRO has â€œassessed students who have been suicidal, getting them the resources needed to improve their mental health. â€œOur SRO and security team meets weekly with my administration team to discuss strategies for keeping our students safe, ways to support individual students and updates on activity that has happened in the community that could impact student safety at school. Our SRO is a critical member of this team, keeping us informed and responding to situations as they arise.â€ In a report to the Council, Police Chief Scott Kimerer said, â€œHighline High School had 268 incidents since the start of the 2014 school year. The SRO handled 229 of those incidents.â€ City Manager Kamuron Gurol said the city staff believes that the SRO program serving Highline Public Schools students in Burien is highly regarded and effective. 300 hours of training During an unusually short debate for this Council, it was clear that the majority would do what Gurol suggested â€“ approve the interlocal agreement. He said the person assigned, Officer Eric White, has over 300 hours of training for the position and â€œextensive training in the field.â€ Berkowitz said she was glad he had all that training, but remained opposed to keeping â€œan armed police officerâ€ in the schools. Councilmembers also requested that staff provide statistical information regarding calls for service to schools with an SRO vs. those schools without an SRO, as well asÂ information regarding the number of times the SRO has arrested a student. For 2015-2018, Highline Public Schools has agreed to pay half the cost of the School Resource Officer for services provided during the school year. For 2015-2016, the cost of a fully loaded School Resource Officer during the school year is $151,000, with the School District and the City each paying $75,500. During the summer months, the School Resource Officer works on City specific projects and is fully paid for by the city.]]>
Senior Reporter Jack Mayne passed away in December, 2021. In his honor we have created the Jack Mayne Journalism Scholarship. More by Jack Mayne
Thank you to the majority of the Burien City Council for supporting this valuable resource. Our children and educators deserve to feel safe. As a bonus, the School Resource Officer provides the opportunity for our students to have positive interaction with a police officer. Our community thanks you for continuing this partnership.
Councilmember Lauren Berkowitz needs to be voted out.
To dj: AMEN to that!
I agree that council women has no idea what she is talking about, if there had been an armed officer in oregon maybe there would have been a different out come.
I remember a few years ago the resource office at evergreen was approach by kid who had a machine gun in his backpack. Thankfully the officer was there to handle the situation. Now these type of events don’t happen every day. But a police officer can help kids out in many ways other than arresting them.
Officer (autocorrect got me)
So true Jimmy. There are so many issues facing kids today. Everything from bullying, gangs, teachers with perversions, to drugs and firearm and theft of cell phones and other tech stuff. We need to give kids more support to feel safe at school, not less. It can be a pretty scary place for many kids to go each day. Thank goodness we have a vetted person who knows our community. Let’s get to know him and show our kids that they have someone looking out for them. It’s a pretty tall order for one person to cover all of our schools, but at least we have one!
Lauren Berkowitz is setting a bad example for our children by her constant disrespect, not just of the SRO, but the Burien PD in general.
This cop at Highline High School is the same cop who stopped a school shooting at another high school he was at. How come Lauren Berkowitz wont speak on that???
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