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Portland Board of Public Education votes to remove school resource officers in two high schools

Leaders in Portland voted 7-2 to remove resource officers from two high schools

PORTLAND, Maine — The Portland school board voted Wednesday morning to remove resource officers (SRO) from Deering and Portland High School. The resolution passed 7-2.

Superintendent Xavier Botana supported the resolution to get rid of SROs. More than $150,000 is built into the district's budget for the officers. Botana said those funds would go to programs like supporting security at large events and de-escalation training for staff.

"We are prioritizing order over student learning and we are prioritizing the safety of some over the trauma of others and it's in that context that I believe that we need to move away from the SRO program at this point, and begin to do the other work we need to do regardless," said Botana.

The board voted against an amendment put forth by board member Sarah Thompson to extend the police department relationship for one year and further study the issue. That proposed resolution included recommendations from a report on school-based police by the Culter Institute.

"As a result of continued emails and calls to the board from the community at large and specifically from students and staff of the Portland Public Schools concerned about the rush to remove the SRO's without engagement. And it has been done during the time school has been released and not to mention a worldwide pandemic," said Thompson.

The amendment failed 6-3.

Two students from Portland High School started a petition in support of their SROs, but two parents with students in the school district have also collected more than 1,000 signatures in opposition. 

The school board said the work starts immediately to make sure staff and students are safe.

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