Press reports seem to tout the success of the ad hoc Los Altos Police Task Force (PTF) in having its 6 recommendations adopted by the city council. They have used sensational sounding headlines like ‘Los Altos Eliminates SRO’.
Only the Los Altos Town Crier gets it somewhat right. It quietly pointed out ‘council members changed some wording…voted to pass IN SOME FORM, every one of the PTF’s six recommendations.’
How much did the council change in the wording of the recommendations? Is this just a little watering down or a gutting of recommendations? You decide.
In this article, we will examine only the PTF 6th recommendation – Eliminate the SRO Program. [We expect to examine recommendations 1 to 5 about the police complaint process in a separate post.]
Lalahpolitico observes that on Nov. 24 City Council did not vote only to end the current SRO program, but also to encourage the collaborative design of a new MVLA SRO [police-based] program at LAHS.
Take a look at PTF Recommendation 6 as written by the PTF:
“Eliminate the SRO program at Los Altos High School and the City encourage MVLA to investigate and implement other non-police models to foster overall student well-being and create a safe and equitable environment.”
Before we dive in — to gain a little perspective — let’s remember the single School Resource Officer serves 16 schools in Los Altos. He/She visits LAHS on average 10 hours a week, but it could be 0 or 30 hours some weeks per Captain Katie Krauss. The officer receives special training and serves in the SRO role for 3 years, then rotates out.
Los Altos Town Crier started its article about the Nov. 24 council meeting by quoting Council Member Enander’s surprising reveal. She said she has given more thought to this race issue locally than to any other city issue. Because she has a Black brother-in-law, she said she is all too familiar with the issue of ‘driving while black.’ When visiting her sister for dinner, he was often late because of recurring no-cause stops.
Similarly, here we start this article by quoting Lynette Lee-Eng, who apparently is the newest city council target for harassment by some of our local social justice warriors. She revealed this… just before the council SRO discussion. “The reason I just voted [not to support a couple of the complaint process recommendations] is lack of information… I’m getting comments from members of Vanguard calling me racist now. I don’t appreciate it. …there are reasons why I took the position I did…”
“I’m making this known publicly because if anything were to occur to me or my family…I voted the way I did…because the information was lacking…and I had concerns…I just want to protect myself and protect my family.” She continued, “People are concerned about voicing their concerns…because of how [they] may be treated.”
Lee-Eng believes local people are being silenced by some of our more energetic social justice warriors. Some people worry that if they dare to question the real or imagined Police/SRO reform proposals, they will be maltreated on social media and maybe in real life.
After Lee-Eng’s bombshell, several other council members expressed disapproval of the texters! Yet the meeting flow quickly resumed, and discussion of the recommendation to ‘Eliminate the SRO’ began. Councilmember Jeannie Bruins went first. Before expressing her leanings about the SRO elimination, she felt compelled to describe her “disappointment” with MVLAHS teachers and administrators. “If you see something, say something.”
“You know, if somebody came to school with black bruises on them, the teachers have an obligation to report that in terms of the potential of child abuse, right? If you’re using strong words and we’re getting some strong words from teachers and such. That’s disturbing to me, I have to say that because I’m sure if some of these people are still on [the call] here, I really would ask that you think about your role, first and foremost, as an educator and what your obligation is. And then secondly, how you might view yourself in terms of being the advocate for change and such, because those are two separate things, and don’t let one cloud the other.” [LAHS teachers Seth Donnelly and Melinda Price, long time LAHS teachers, have given their testimony and spoken out against SROs and police presence on campus at several city meetings this year.]
Next, Jeannie Bruins floats the thought that she is in favor of “dropping” the CURRENT SRO program “for a lot of reasons”. She says, however, that MVLAHS admin believes there is a SRO role and that would need to be resolved before the start of the next school year. “If there was a really good understanding of what was needed and the best body to provide it is through a police presence, or a police officer – that we [the City PD] are not shutting the door to that.”
Next Vice Mayor Neysa Fligor proposes this rewording — “direct staff to inform the school district that we’re ready to work with them in developing an alternative to the current SRO program… So it’s not just saying, you know, we’re eliminating the program at MVLA. I definitely want us to be part of that discussion — to the extent MVLA still wants us to be part of that discussion — about what this alternate program to the current SRO program looks like.”
Anita Enander continued the discussion.
“…we need to take an action tonight that basically formally informs the High School Board of Trustees, that we need a redefinition, a rethinking of the nature of our on-campus services prior to the beginning of the 21-22 school year. We need to have the staffs of both the city and the school district look at what the needs are, and how those can best be delivered — needs that WE can fulfill.”
“Because some of what has been discussed, for example, the mental health needs, are not something we provide, right? So, we need to look at what are the elements of the program. Because although I understood the flowchart that was presented or the graphic that was presented, I would bet that if the school district – if they were providing that graphic, they wouldn’t have crossed all those items out. They might even have a different list.” [See next graphic — Slide a]
“And so I think it really behooves our two staffs to get together and look at all the information provided by the task force, their deliberations, the draft report, all the other documents that were put together. And they may need to go get some more information. But in the end, it should include and I think this is important, it should include a joint public meeting between the Board of Trustees, and our city council to agree on the scope and details of those service provisions, memorialized in a memorandum of understanding.”
Slide[a] from the PTF Presentation – Renee Rashid
[Lalahpolitico: And please make all those informational materials public. Post the videos of all the prior PTF meeting deliberations. The police letter and the police report about the recommendations is not yet public. The current Agreement between the City LAPD and MVLA is not yet public. Make public the MVLA Disciplinary data when MVLA admin shares it and their MOU with the MVPD for Mountain View High School. Transparency, please! Please make all these Download/Viewing links prominent – perhaps on a website page about the Police ‘reforms’ — similar to the dedicated website page about the progress on the Hillview Community Center construction.]
Neysa Fligor continues the SRO discussion. … “I agree with you. We can’t just decide, ‘End the SRO program’ and not confer with a key stakeholder [MVLA] to ensure there’s no negative impact or gaps. And that’s my thinking on the approach.”
Anita Enander informed the City Attorney that the Task Force did in fact have a [1-hour] meeting with the MVLA Superintendent Meyer and the LAHS Principal Wynne Satterwhite. “…what we heard tonight from the report from the taskforce was that the school district’s perception of the [SRO] program is totally at odds with the task force’s majority assessment of the program. So, we may have heard from them — MVLA — but there was no meeting of the minds.”
Mayor Jan Pepper interjected that more than just the two staffs should confer. “I also think that it’s not just staff to staff. I think we should get the council — we had talked about having an MVLA council task force put together… We have one for the LASD. We have one for CUSD. We’ve never put one together for MVLA, but clearly, it’s time to do that… I think from a policy perspective, it needs to be a couple of members of the council and a couple of members of the MVLA board to discuss that… I think we need to tell them we’re not going to do the SRO program anymore… It will elevate it in their…. bring it to a higher level of interest to them [to meet with us] if we do that.”
Jeannie Bruins was apparently getting some flack via text message during the meeting — flack about her chiding MVLA teachers for their silence. “I did just receive in a text message from a member of the public that it was not apparently clear on what I was saying. I have heard loud and clear. Teachers have come out and talked with us. Students have come out and talked. My disappointment, though — anyone negative encounter is not acceptable — and as an adult, if you are aware of a negative encounter, something should have been done right then and there, something should have either gone to Wynn Satterwhite, should have come to the chief [of Police], could have come to the city manager. ‘If you see something, say something.’ So that’s what my disappointment is.”
Slide[b] from the PTF Presentation – Renee Rashid
Lynette Lee Eng asked the City Attorney if the City would be breaching its current agreement with MVLA. “So when we say we have a service agreement [CityPD & MVLA], can we just say, ‘ Okay we’re gonna get rid of these SROs.’ But are we breaching our agreement? That’s my concern.” Jolie Houston replied, “ I do care what the termination period is. Thank you.” [for bringing it up]
A motion was restated by Neysa Fligor and several friendly amendments were made and accepted by Fligor. Lalah has carefully followed the audio and a transcript and compiled the final motion. Compare it to the original PTF Recommendation language.
FINAL MOTION: 1) Eliminate the SRO program at Los Altos High School. And direct staff to inform the MVLA administration of this recommendation, and to start the transition process to eliminate the SRO program at/by the end of the school year. 2) And direct staff to inform the school district that we’re ready to be partners with them in developing an alternative to the current SRO program (If there is a different program) by the beginning of the next school year. PASSED 5-0
ORIGINAL PTF Recommendation: 1) Eliminate the SRO program at Los Altos High School and 2) the City encourage MVLA to investigate and implement other non-police models to foster overall student well-being and create a safe and equitable environment.
Ummmmmmm. Not the same.
Slide[c ] from the PTF Presentation – Renee Rashid – LACK of AWARENESS of SRO
Lalahpolitico Bottom Line:
Re the PTF’s original SRO Recommendation, Council did vote Yes to do 1) the first part, but not 2) the second part.
Instead, the Council invited MVLA to work with the City to shape a replacement police-based model if MVLA wants one. It is expected that a new MOU could be based on the arrangement MVLA has with the MVPD for MV High. Apparently, the MVPD MOU delineates in more detail what an SRO should do and should not do. In particular, observers say having the SRO try to enforce school rules – don’t use your mobile phone during school hours; don’t eat food in this location – should be excluded.
Right now – the work of the PTF itself shows that the MVLA administration actually likes the current SRO program and believes there is a role for a MV police and a LA police-based program. A new and improved SRO program would continue to be different from “calling for service” to the police when there is a ‘situation’. Even if there are more MVLA funds spent on mental health or “restorative justice circles,” one should expect that MVLA will call the police for service when there is a “situation.
Video of the 22 minutes long Discussion
Listen for yourself
Lalahpolitico: Dear reader, I suggest you go google the term “restorative justice circles in education.” PTF member Toni Moos penned an explanation in this Council agenda document. This approach is worth a try, but probably in addition to, not instead of a SRO type program. If a student has a chronic behavior problem, maybe the situation should escalate to SRO intervention? Just wondering.
As covered by the MV Voice, our local social justice warriors have a signers list of originally 250 in September that according to recent assertions is now at 800 to 1000 current and former, students, teachers, graduates — all who have signed one of those unverifiable online petitions advocating for keeping police off-campus. Lalah thinks the campaign could maybe succeed in motivating the MVLA admin and the MVLA Board of Trustees to NOT create a new SRO program. But Lalah doubts the 1000 signatures will motivate the MVLA admin to promise to never ever call the police to campus except in the two cases of an ‘active’ shooter or knifer or a ‘serious’ 5150 in progress! In the case of a 5150 suicide threat, at this time, the response time of CHAC or the County service is just too slow to not call the police instead.
Slide[d ] from the PTF Presentation – Renee Rashid – BULLYING IS NOT VIOLENCE?
LALAH ON MORAL CALCULUS?
If we had nothing but 6 or 8 small high schools of 500 kids each, and a school district geography wherein every child had excellent, vigilant parents and nurturing home life, Lalahpolico conjectures we wouldn’t be looking towards a police-based alternative to the current SRO program in MVLA.
Renee Rashid’s moral calculus is — ‘Even if just 10 persons were harmed by the LAHS SRO program because our Police Task Force can’t find any offsetting benefits, the SRO program must be eliminated’. Vice Mayor Fligor was persuaded by that calculus and reiterated it during the Nov. 24 council meeting. Lalahpolitico: That is probably the judgment of a majority of residents. And eliminating a part-time SRO at LAHS is such a tiny, tiny, thing. Who loses? Maybe a handful of Hispanic kids getting involved with gangs? Do we care?
Lalah’s moral calculus — Suppose there are at least 10 persons who were diverted from a bad path by the SRO program in the last 10 years, would that be enough benefits to continue the SRO program? Who will come forward to testify of their youthful brush with criminality and how an SRO was part of the intervention that set them straight? Probably no one.
1. PTF suggestions for Alternatives to the Current SRO Program – [As councilmember Enander and Bruins remarked, obviously the City cannot provide those alternatives which are not police-based. MVLA will have to find and fund those alternatives.]
2. MOU of MV PD with MVLA. Interesting is that it says MV has a second SRO assigned to LAHS? So MVPD has two SROs. Anyone who knows different, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
3. 28 Response Survey Results! The task force had some bad luck and maybe a lack of realism about what could be accomplished quickly. Certainly, the PTF overestimated the MVLA administration’s interest in having any bandwidth to look at the SRO program while they are scrambling to master online learning and COVID hygiene measures. The PTF was hoping to uncover 200 new LAHS SRO/school police trauma victims to come forward with their stories, but no one new has come forward. Hence the language, “Even if only 10 have suffered – but we know hypothetically its more – 10 is unacceptable….”