Edmonds School Board votes to remove police officers from three schools; will decide on fourth later this year

Edmonds School Board President Deborah Kilgore (bottom right) discusses the board’s decision to remove police officers from schools. (Photo courtesy Edmonds School District)

Fueled by calls to remove police officers from schools, the Edmonds School Board unanimously voted Tuesday to cut ties with three local law enforcement agencies and postpone a decision on a fourth until later this year pending an in-depth school safety review.

After several discussions on whether police officers — also known as school resource officers or SROs — belong on high school campuses, the board voted 5-0 at its June 23 business meeting not to renew contracts with the cities of Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace, removing SROs from Meadowdale and Mountlake Terrace high schools. The board also voted 5-0 to terminate a current interlocal agreement with the City of Edmonds, pulling the SRO from Edmonds-Woodway High School.

“Given the facts of our highly-dangerous national and state systems of policing, supervision and incarceration, by being housed in our high schools — no matter how helpful and beloved they are — police are a real risk to many of our students and they contribute to stress and bad health for hundreds of children,” said Board President Deborah Kilgore.

The SRO program is set up through an interlocal agreement between the district and local law enforcement agencies, which define the SRO’s role at the school. Four high schools, including Lynnwood, Meadowdale, Mountlake Terrace and Edmonds-Woodway, had SROs. Involved agencies included the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office and Lynnwood, Mountlake Terrace and Edmonds police departments, respectively.

After voting to remove SROs, the board said it would review the safety plans currently in place and will make necessary changes for all students to feel safe in school. Incoming Superintendent Dr. Gustavo Balderas — who was sworn into his new position at the start of the meeting — requested a one-year period to bring a new safety plan to the board.

“Having the board review the overall safety and wellness plans for the district and how all the pieces fit together is an essential first element to various functions of safety and wellness in the system,” he said.

The decision came after recent civil unrest in response to the death of George Floyd and other Black men and women at the hands of white police officers. It has prompted a renewed discussion both locally and nationally about whether having police officers in schools was in the best interest of all students, particularly students of color.

For months, community members have appealed to the board to remove SROs from schools on the grounds that students of color are more likely to be discriminated against than their white peers. The board has been gathering feedback from students, parents and district staff across all levels speaking for or against placing SROs in schools. In addition to submitting public comments, community members both for and against SROs spoke during a virtual forum held last week, allowing the board to gather more input before this week’s vote.

Prior to the vote, board members read final submitted comments from community members pleading their case on the divisive issue. Speaking in favor of the SRO program, Mountlake Terrace High School teacher Lavon Driscoll said the school’s SRO, Officer Kyle O’Hagan, has developed a relationship with students that allows them to trust him.

“I have seen Officer O’Hagan approach students of all colors to engage them in positive interaction, repairing the gap between the police and people of color,” he stated in a letter read by Kilgore.

Director Nancy Katims read a comment submitted by Edmonds-Woodway High School teacher Amy Emond, who said she is choosing to stand in solidarity with her students of color opposing the program.

“I was a big believer in SROs and building the positive relationships with students,” Emond stated. “I now see the trauma and fear in my Black and brown students when they see an armed SRO in the hallway. We must listen to our students as they are the reason we chose this career.”

Though the board members were in agreement that the district should explore other means of keeping students safe in school, Lynnwood High School poses a particular problem. Since its campus is located in unincorporated Snohomish County, the school can experience a longer response time from law enforcement, so it contracts with the sheriff’s office for an SRO presence.

In past discussions on the SRO issue, Director Gary Noble has expressed his worries about the response time issue. Noble voiced his concerns again Tuesday night, saying the district should ensure there is a robust safety plan in place before voting to terminate the SRO contract.

“Eliminating the SRO at other schools is less of a safety issue, because in an emergency local police can respond almost immediately,” he said. “Lynnwood High, however, is in unincorporated Snohomish County and the county sheriff’s department is spread so thin that it cannot guarantee a response in less than 30 minutes.”

Additionally, Noble pointed out that the district has been hesitant in the past to eliminate the program at the school. When other schools temporarily lost SROs due to budget shortages, Lynnwood’s remained in place.

Following the discussion, the board voted 5-0 to postpone voting on the matter until its Aug. 11 business meeting, to allow for more time to create an adequate safety plan for the school.

–By Cody Sexton

  1. Such a foolish decision. Americans seem to always make decisions on what is popular at the moment.

  2. No matter the color of a student’s skin, the officers are there to protect against school shootings which, unfortunately, have been too many! This is a poor decision by the board. Why not let the parents weigh in before this is done?

  3. A Message from Acting Chief Jim Lawless

    Last evening, the Edmonds School District held a meeting of the Board, wherein they voted to terminate contracts with the law enforcement agencies who provide School Resource Officers to the high schools within the district. The process for re-establishing School Resource Officers within the district several years ago was long, thoughtful, deliberate and collaborative. The emphasis, then and now, has always been about the building of relationships with, and maintaining the safety of, the students, staff and faculty. The Edmonds Police Department Officer assigned to Edmonds Woodway High School is highly skilled, trained and respected within the department, and more importantly within the EWHS community.

    While I completely understand the desire and sense of urgency to immediately address community concerns surrounding social injustices, I believe that this decision was borne out of emotion, not data, and was hastily undertaken. I am disappointed that this process was not more deliberative and inclusive of all parties involved – the district, students, faculty, staff, and yes, the police department. I do not believe that the School Board President’s comments are in any way reflective of the positive relationships and impacts that our officer has had at Edmonds Woodway High School – I am quite disappointed that she would paint your police department’s efforts with such a broad brush. We have always worked in concert with these parties in developing response plans to day to day issues, as well as the critical incidents which are an unfortunate reality in today’s world. This is an opportunity lost to continue to develop and grow positive relationships between law enforcement and the youth within our community.

    The full-time staff equivalent (FTE) position previously dedicated to the School Resource Officer will immediately be shifted to assisting with the development and implementation of the Edmonds Police Department’s body-worn camera pilot project. The ultimate goal will be to secure funding to support a full body-worn camera program, to include program management and equipment/software sufficient enough to issue every sworn officer a body worn camera.

  4. Remember the names of these school board members that voted to make our children less safe and to further distance children from positive interaction with police, during the next election. This is 100% virtue signaling and not based upon data or care for our children. These people do not need to running our schools.

  5. Long ago we had OFFICER FRIENDLY who visited the schools – It was a happy program.

    40 years ago we had drug dealers right outside College Place Middle School. Drugs are more prevalent now.

    Because of COVID-19 – we have no school
    Shootings because schools are closed.

    We have discrimination against many groups including the homeless.

    The schools, teachers, counselors, secretaries, counselors, social workers, coaches, janitors are the ones on the frontlines – the schools feed the hungry and care for the homeless kids and I forgot to mention transportation and the McKinney Vento program. I commend the school board for their hard work – they r working for fair & just solutions and it isn’t easy.

    Thank you to all the above who work to educate our children and care for all in need. I am constantly amazed at all they do.

    1. I’m a 59 year resident. I went to woodway hs. I’m a retired educator that raised four children one not my own….the daughter of my homeless cousin…My family is biracial. Sum total. I lived alot of this. They are more than wrong. Mountlake Terrace JH. 8th grade social studies Ms. Beckmeyer taught us about stereotyping. I’m not willing to regress in maturity to be a follower. I’m not going to stereotype the Edmonds Police. Everyone…we can vote next time……

  6. What an absolutely ignorant (at best) decision. If there are black and brown students who experience trauma and fear at the sight of a police officer in their school then work with the police department to heal that reaction. A huge missed opportunity.

  7. For years a number of people, many inside the black community itself, have warned that the purpose of the BLM movement is primarily about making people feel negatively about the cops. This is why they only protest certain deaths and ignore black on black violence. Everything that portrays cops in a positive light must end, like taking Paw Patrol off the air and getting rid of SRO’s. Calls for death to cops are justified. If you say all lives matter it must be stamped out because it steps on the message of BLM.

    This part says it all…

    “no matter how helpful and beloved they are — police are a real risk to many of our students and they contribute to stress and bad health for hundreds of children,”

    No attempt to find out why helpful and beloved people are scaring children of color just get rid of the “problem” and the fear will go away. What if the actual problem is the people that are spending so much effort to shove this group into a state of fear?

    In today’s cancel culture if you don’t actively support a left side position then you are counted as opposed to it. If the school board did not support BLM on this they would have been called racist, few people are willing to stand up to the pressure of being called a racist, even more so if they are not. It is what makes it such an effective weapon.

  8. Deborah Kilgore reveals herself as an extreme left wing ideolog who, with the rest of the like minded compliant school board members put fort several lies to support their anti-police bias. What evidence is there of “highly dangerous policing” in South Snohomish County? None is offered. What evidence is there that the presence of SRO officers “contribute to stress and bad health for hundreds of children”? No study or medical opinion was offered. These are lies. These are the people in charge of our children’s education? They are indoctrinating children to fear and hate police as part of their radical agenda. They all need to be removed at the next election.

  9. The statement by Jim Lawless and the EPD says it all. Big mistake, huge disappointment, and this board owns it. The officers will most likely be back. I encourage all voters to do research on these important future board elections and ask questions. This has become more apparent and important than ever based on this kind of logic.

  10. Thank you to the Edmonds School Board! Thank you for listening to the students of color at these schools! This is a minuscule step in the right direction.

  11. This is a very political and reckless decision made by a school board who is supposed to have our children’s best interests at heart. I would like to see proof of the so called phone calls they received from parents and teachers who live in the ESD. How many phone calls were there? Have they lost the ability of cognitive thinking or are all the decisions being made by “their feelings of the day?” This decision needs to be reversed and these people need to be voted out of office.

  12. Remember this at election time, folks. ALL of these people value their own virtual signalling over the safety of your children. Vote each and everyone of these reckless clowns out of office. Absolutely disgusted by this.

  13. What an irresponsible decision. Do you board members, parents, and students realize how many lives can be lost in the 10 to 15 or more minutes it could take for a police officer to get to the school to stop a shooter? 13 dead, 24 injured. That was at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado April 20, 1999. The only reason more weren’t murdered, was because the shooters killed themselves. 3 of my patients were killed, 2 escaped, but were severely traumatized. I firmly believe more lives would have been saved had a police officer been on duty. And I am certain, the 13th person to die, a beloved teacher, would not have bled to death. You have no idea what you have done. If students feel threatened by a police officer’s presence, perhaps counseling with the students and their parents is in order. They are assuming that all officers are a threat to be feared. How unbelievably sad.
    I will not be voting for any of the school board members come reelection.

  14. If this is the best educators Edmonds has to make critical decisions we are lost. Foolish emotional, prejudice, decision. This important question should have the vote of the people. The end.

  15. I am sorry to see this decision made. The resource officers play a huge role in creating relationships with students and police officers. They help bring these two groups together and model that we are all in this together and can work to understand and help each other.

  16. All school board members should be arrested for being idiots. Maybe Mayor Nelson can make that a new law. When schools re-open one day, which they will and we have an active shooting happening on one of our schools campuses which it will god forbid someday, you can bet the board members will be first in line asking how could this have happened and why did it take a police officer so long to respond. Apparently the board did not look at data that shows how many incidents per year the SRO prevented that could’ve ended in a lost life had the officer not been on campus. Most citizens have no idea of the dedication of our men and woman of the EPD. Thank you for your service.

  17. Wrong decision by the school board. They have just labelled every police and resource officer as bad cops and an enemy to your children. I hope, in spite of this decision, that all Edmonds, Mountlake Terrace and Lynnwood students will remain safe in their now, unprotected schools. Just remember: the police are only minutes away when seconds count.

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