White Bear Lake Area Schools utilizes a multi-layered approach to protecting the safety of students, staff members and building visitors. One of our approaches has been to partner with the White Bear Lake Police Department (WBLPD) through a School Resource Officer (SRO) program in our secondary schools.
We were notified today that the WBLPD is suspending its SRO program in our secondary schools effective immediately. The decision has been made due to a new law passed by the 2023 legislature that placed certain restrictions on safety interventions school employees and agents, including SROs, can use when intervening with students. Law enforcement agencies consider these new rules a risk to officer safety and a legal liability for officers and organizations.
Although the SRO program will not be in effect, we will continue to partner with the WBLPD and other law enforcement agencies to maintain school safety. We appreciate the long history we have with our local law enforcement agencies as we have worked in partnership with them to build relationships, prevent incidents wherever possible and ensure student and staff safety at school.
Thank you for your understanding and support of our schools as we address this important issue, which emerged quickly, drew widespread media attention and continues to develop. Please be assured that, along with WBLPD and other law enforcement partners, we remain committed to doing all we can to keep our students and staff safe.
Additional information related to this SRO change:
Our first priority is to ensure the safety of students and staff trusted in our care.
Safety upgrades were a focus of the facilities work made possible by the 2019 bond referendum, which has allowed us to implement a variety of upgrades district-wide since that time: the addition of secure entrances at all of our buildings, advanced security and video surveillance systems, and increased emergency communication tools and capabilities for staff members. The new visitor sign-in process implemented in all of our buildings this fall is another proactive step that has been taken to identify and allow for better screening of building visitors.
Directly related to the change in SROs, please be assured that building administrators will continue to have access to officers who had been previously serving as SROs, along with other officers, should the need arise. In the September 18, 2023 White Bear Lake Police Department media release, Police Chief Dale Hager committed to continue to work closely with us. During school hours, police officers will respond to calls related to the school district and will be encouraged to conduct regular walk-throughs at schools daily, as often as the officers’ call loads will permit. Officers will also place an emphasis on patrolling the neighborhoods around our schools in order to minimize response time and will frequently park at our middle and high school buildings.
We value the relationship we have with our local law enforcement agencies and are in support of the School Resource Officer program returning as soon as possible. We remain in close communication with police and will continue to work together to ensure the safest school environments possible.