WEST CHATHAM — Simeon Career Academy’s local school council voted nearly unanimously Wednesday to keep school police officers after emotional testimony from several students and teachers opposed to the idea.
Simeon, 8147 S. Vincennes Ave., has more than 1,400 students and two student resource officers.
Simeon council members voted 10-0 in favor of keeping resource officers. One member abstained.
Interim Principal Trista Harper said she wanted to keep officers based on the “good relationship” they have with students and faculty.
Another council member, a father of a current Simeon student, agreed with Harper, saying there were a lot of fights that occurred during last school year.
“We can’t stereotype officers. The [school resource officers] were out there deescalating situations,” the parent said.
Not all were happy with the decision.
Joia Coleman, a rising sophomore at Simeon, told the council the presence of police officers didn’t make her feel safe. She urged the school to “lead by example” by voting against the measure.
“Just knowing that an officer has a handgun on their hip causes so much stress on the students, not knowing if our lives will be taken away,” Coleman said during public comments. “The job of [a school resource officer] can be to create a safe environment for students, but they have to truly live up to their duty.”
A survey that was distributed garnered 75 responses. About 40 percent of respondents supported the move to keep officers.
But some said the phrasing of the survey questions was biased. Students, faculty and staff were asked if they felt school resource officers kept them safe.
Teacher Ashley Kiddle told the council if students feel “criminalized” by the presence of police, they need to be heard.
“We didn’t ask them that question, but they are here on this call to tell us,” Kiddle said.
The school’s leadership is open to the idea of phasing out school officers in favor of a collaborative safety plan involving students and staff, Harper said. Until then, the resource officers will stay put.