Round Rock Independent School District parents are questioning the timeline of the district's efforts to bring a police force to schools as they move toward a deadline for input. They also say they want the district to address racial disparities in discipline among students.
The Round Rock ISD Police Task Force met last night at the Westwood High School Library for the sixth time ahead of its February deadline to pass on input to the Round Rock ISD School Board. Parents and community members expressed concern about both the timeline and the role of the task force in informing the school board. The task force first met in July and faces a Feb. 21 deadline to submit public input to the Round Rock School Board. Attendees also expressed concern about racial disparities in discipline of students as effort moves forward.
Tanjour Bowman, a parent and member of the Round Rock Black Parents' Association, said she wants a police force that understands issues surrounding implicit bias, specifically.
"That’s the biggest thing that we’re concerned about," she said.
The school district currently uses officers from the Round Rock Police Department, the Williamson County Sheriff's Office and the Austin Community College District Police Department to staff school resource officers on a $2.5-million contract.
According to Round Rock ISD 2017 data, African-American students made up 33 percent of discretionary discipline placements, but make up 8.7 percent of the student population. Special education students also account for 38.8 percent of disciplinary removals but are 14.4 percent of the district.
Task force members also touched on diversity, community engagement, incorporating voices of students in the district, data and other issues they'd like to see addressed in a department. But, Bowman said, she feels there hasn’t been a full and consistent consensus among task force members to address those disparities.
"When [the cons] are presented it needs to be more than just a person of color, but someone with actual and factual data to comment on whether or not this is a good situation," Bowman said. "I just want to make sure this is a fair process."
Members also expressed concern about that February deadline to give feedback to the school board. District spokesperson Jenny Lacoste-Caputo said the district could extend the timeframe, if need be.
"If they need more time, that would be something that they could definitely take more time because it’s very important," Lacoste-Caputo said. "We’re talking about the security of 50,000 students and 7,000 staff members, so we want to get it right."
Last year, the district was notified that school resource officers could no longer be provided by the Round Rock Police Department at campuses after May 2021. Chief Allen Banks says the arrangement has siphoned off 10 percent of the department's officers, and that the district needs its own force.
"We need to hire those officers that want to be there," said Round Rock Chief of Police Allen Banks. "Not forced to be a school resource officer or a police officer in the school district."
The task force is scheduled to meet at least three times before making their recommendations to the school board.