YPSILANTI, Mich. – Parents with students at Ypsilanti Community Schools said they support the district’s decision to no longer have a school resource officer on campus.
Michigan schools are facing many tough decisions because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. That’s one of the reasons officials with Ypsilanti Community Schools is making changes.
Deputy Thomas Guynes, of the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office, has been a fixture in the district, even participating in the high school graduation ceremony.
“My initial feeling was sadness because our school resource officer, Deputy Guynes, has been awesome,” teacher Dan Schunck said. “He’s a part of our school. He feels like a staff member. He has an awesome relationship with the students.”
Everyone involved agreed the school resource officers were doing a great job, but Superintendent Alena Zachery-Ross cited three reasons for the decision to end the relationship.
“We’ll call for our community because of the unrest, but then we started thinking about COVID-19 and we most likely wouldn’t be in school and we won’t be starting the school year off face-to-face,” Zachery-Ross said. “That was a factor. Secondly, we know that there’s an expected cut in our budget, and to use taxpayers’ money to pay them a combined contract of about $230,000 for school resource officers -- we knew we needed to put the money directly in the classroom. Then, lastly, we thought about, you know, this isn’t the right conditions to have school resource officers.”
Ypsilanti parents who spoke with Local 4 said the district made the right decision.
“The Board of Education Administration (is) committed to making decisions that are rooted in equity and in the social, emotional health and well-being of our children,” parent Amanda Smith said. “But with, I think, the decision to end the school resource officer contract is in line with those values, and while I believe the schools had a great relationship with the Sheriff’s Office as a parent, I like to see those resources go into programs that are run by people who know our children best, like the TCS teachers and our staff.”
Jeanice Townsend grew up in Ypsilanti schools, and her youngest daughter just graduated high school. She said this helps change the narrative of the district.
“This district is that -- it is a great institution of learning, and the focus is on our students, on our teachers, on the community, how we can best educate our students, and I think this is a decision that’s leaning toward that direction,” Townsend said.
“I know that the Sheriff’s Office can be there in a heartbeat if something horrible did happen,” Smith said.
“Right now, we’re seeing all of the information about COVID-19,” Zachery-Ross said. “We’re on top of the social unrest they’re seeing right here in the Ypsilanti community. There’s been quite a bit of protesting happening. ... We want to take care of the social, emotional needs of our students.
Townsend said now is the time for parents to pay attention.
“I’ll ask that people need to really begin to be engaged with how education is going to change these next couple of months,” Townsend said.
“The bottom line for us: You’re sad to see the specific officer go, but you think it’s the right call for the school and the community right now,” Schunck said.
Parents said they’d still like to see the district partner with the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office and the Ypsilnati Police Department in other ways.