Following community input, the Winona Area Public Schools Board has decided to terminate the contract with its school resource officer.
The decision comes less than a month after discussion started, including a rally in the district office’s parking lot.
One resource officer served the 2,600 students across six sites helping with safety and crisis management.
Community members told the board that for minority children, the officer’s presence can make them feel more fearful than safe.
“About 20 percent of our students are student of color,” said Dr. Annette Freiheit, the superintendent of Winona Area Public Schools. “We have about the same number of Hispanic students, Black students, and students of two or more races.”
The district also has a population of American Indian and Asian students.
While there were no incidents this past school year with the officer, the board will look to reallocate the funding.
“The school district does get a certain amount of money from the State Department that we use for Safe Schools,” said Nancy Denzer, the Winona Area Public Schools school board chair.
The school already has ‘Safety Specialists’ who help the administration keep students safe.
The district says while its terminating the contract with the schools’ resource officer, it will continue a relationship with the Winona Police Department.
“We do value a great deal our relationship with our local law enforcement agencies,” Denzer said. “We’re looking forward to finding just some different ways that we can work together.”
“They do have community officers and I know they have visited a couple of our elementary schools,” Freiheit added. “They do a walk through, talk with the kids over lunch, go into classrooms talk about safety and things like that. I’d like to see that continue.”
The board also voted to give the superintendent some time to come up with a new plan for the district.
“We’ll look at how can we better support our students– are there other types of positions? I know what was mentioned was a counselor or a social worker and would those positions better support our students?,” Freiheit explained.
She hopes to have ideas ready for the July board meeting in order to have everything in place for the school year.