The Williamson County Commissioners took no action on a proposed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on its agenda Tuesday that would’ve allowed for the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office to provide School Resource Officers (SROs) to all middle and high schools in the District long term. There is currently an MOU in place to provide SROs until June 2021.The Board of Trustees will discuss next steps during their regular meeting on Thursday.
This issue has been a priority for the Board for the past several years, but debate heightened in 2017 when the Round Rock Police Department informed the District they would not be able to provide SROs beyond 2021 due to growth in the city. Currently, SROs assigned to Round Rock ISD schools are contracted by the District through the Round Rock Police Department, the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office and the Austin Community College Police Department.
Both Round Rock Police Chief Allen Banks and Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody have said it is in the best interest of the District to form its own police department, as many districts in the region and across the state have done, to provide security coverage for its campuses and to allow the District more control over staffing levels and training practices.
A community task force appointed by the District in summer 2018 worked for more than a year studying school safety issues, as well as mental and behavioral health concerns, school-to-prison pipeline data, and disciplinary removal practices that disproportionately affect minority and special education students. The task force reported its findings to the Board in September 2019.
This fall, the Board pursued a new MOU with Williamson County that would ultimately expand its coverage to the entire District, which spans multiple jurisdictions, municipalities and two counties. The proposed MOU was on the Williamson County Commissioners’ agenda Tuesday, but while a motion was made to approve, the motion died for lack of a second.
The Board of Trustees had previously directed Round Rock ISD administration to continue pursuing an application through the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE) to create a Round Rock ISD police department in the event an agreement could not be reached with Williamson County.
“Our goal throughout this process has been to ensure the students and staff of Round Rock ISD have the safest possible learning environment,” Board President Charles “Chad” Chadwell said Tuesday. “We are confident that, in partnership with District administration, we will be able to develop a solution that not only provides safety and security for our campuses, but also focuses on restorative practices, mentoring, and increased resources for mental and behavioral health.”
Superintendent of Schools Steve Flores, Ph.D. said his team has been working on gathering information for the TCOLE application and researching the budget and operational impact of a district-operated police department.
“We are so appreciative of our partnership with local law enforcement agencies and for their support of the District,” Flores said. “They are committed to supporting us through this transition and ensuring that our campuses remain welcoming, nurturing and safe environments.”