City residents and council members all voiced their worries Monday about a new school resource officer agreement between Columbia Public Schools and the city of Columbia.
The City Council unanimously passed the agreement at its Monday night meeting. First Ward Councilman Clyde Ruffin and Fifth Ward Councilman Matt Pitzer were absent.
The Columbia School Board also approved the agreement at its Oct. 14 meeting. It will assign one resource officer each to Hickman, Rock Bridge and Battle high schools. A fourth officer will also be assigned to “no more than two” middle schools, according to the agreement.
Mayor Brian Treece said he worried about the small number of resource officers in this new agreement. He said when he reviewed Jefferson City’s school resource officer agreement, he found they have eight officers for a town of 35,000 people.
Treece also said he struggles with the fact that Columbia’s officers will be spread too thin.
“Ultimately we want more school resource officers, I’m just not sure how we get there yet,” he said.
Some residents who spoke at the council meeting expressed the exact opposite concern.
“Students at schools who have more resource officers are five times more likely to be arrested than those without,” said Columbia resident Susan Carter.
Traci Wilson-Kleekamp, president of Race Matters, Friends, said there is data that shows black children are more at risk when officers are in schools.
Both Second Ward Councilman Mike Trapp and Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala agreed that the new agreement is an improvement over the previous one.
In other news, the council also approved the construction of a sidewalk along the east side of Sinclair Road between Nifong Boulevard and Southhampton Drive.
The sidewalk is estimated to cost $269,000 and is being built because a new middle school is being constructed nearby. The school district is willing to contribute up to $300,000 as long as the city buys land for a nearby park.
Columbia Parks and Recreation Director Mike Griggs said the department will buy whatever land they need to in order to get the necessary funds from the district.
“If we end up having to buy four acres to pay for the sidewalk then that’s what we’ll buy, if we have to buy six acres, that’s what we’ll do,” Griggs said.
Near the beginning of the meeting, Brian Johnstone, speaking on behalf of the nonprofit Its Our Wild Nature, presented a petition with 1,157 signatures asking the city to stop its current plan for the Shepard Rollins Trail. The nonprofit previously tried and failed to block the city’s plan to extend the trail across the property.
The new trail will go straight through a nature area the nonprofit wants to preserve and hopes this petition will halt the plan.
Supervising editor is Tynan Stewart.