CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WNCN) – The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School district is making some changes to its school resource officer program. The board came to the decision after approximately two hours of debating what role, if any, SROs had in school safety.

In a 5-1 decision, the board voted with Option 2, which is keeping the SRO program as is while adding behavioral health professionals for discipline.

One middle school, however, will have its SRO removed and replaced with a full-time behavior health specialist as part of a pilot program.

The board will also review its memorandum of understanding for the SRO program in 90 days.
The full text of Option 2 is: “School Resource Officers (SROs) are placed at each middle school and high school and provide support to elementary schools as needed. School administrators and school climate/behavioral health professionals lead student discipline and behavior interventions.”

The decision came following a school safety and SRO review that began in 2020 with a task force.

As part of that review, the district sent out a safety survey to the school community.

When asked if they feel safe overall, 79 percent of students and 83 percent of staff said they do.

On whether SROs contribute to overall safety, 87 percent of students and 90 percent of staff said they do.

The full survey results and review of the SRO program can be read here.

Some concerns board members had regarding SROs are with racial equity, with a board member citing the study saying Black students had a disproportionately higher number of interactions with SROs relative to their percentage of the student body. 

There were also concerns about equating one officer at a school with a false sense of security.

Board members asked the Chapel Hill and Carrboro police chiefs questions about the program.

The chiefs spoke in support saying they view it as a way to build relationships with students and said the knowledge an SRO has of the physical school building is invaluable if there was ever an active shooter situation.

According to the district’s study, there were 563 interactions with SROs last year.

The top two categories were administrative support and positive interactions.