The superintendent of an Indiana school district blasted local police — and even threatened legal action — for sending extra officers to patrol the schools for free.
The issue? Well, the district considered the additional school resource officers unauthorized because the school board didn't approve them, and they weren't part of the comprehensive school safety program.
Portage Police Chief Troy Williams on Wednesday assigned two officers to township schools in addition to school resource officers already there, the Northwest Indiana Times reported.
But Williams said school officials asked the officers to leave the middle school and high school buildings, the paper said, so the officers instead stationed themselves in the schools' parking lots. Williams added to the Times that he sent the officers to the schools on Thursday and Friday as well, and again they were asked to leave and spent the day in the parking lots.
"You can't say you are committed to safe schools when you refuse free officers," Williams said Friday, according to the paper.
Portage Township Schools Superintendent Amanda Alaniz told the Times she asked Williams and Mayor James Snyder not to send the additional officers because the school board didn't approve them, and because their presence wasn't part of the district's comprehensive safety program.
"Saying that we are not caring for our students is unspeakable," Alaniz told the paper. "The problem is they want it their way. They have made it clear that they don't want any other agency in the schools except Portage."
What's the background?
After a student opened fire in a classroom in May in Noblesville, Indiana — 2 1/2 hours south of Portage — Williams and Snyder announced Portage police would add two more officers to the schools for free, the Times said.
But Alaniz in June announced it would hire part-time officers from Portage and other jurisdictions rather than using full-time Portage officers, the paper said.
Williams and Snyder didn't like the plan Alaniz outlined, so instead the district agreed to use existing full-time Portage officers as SROs but fill other positions with part-time officers from other jurisdictions, the Times reported.
Alaniz said Snyder and Williams overstepped their bounds last week by sending police to the schools without district approval, the paper noted.
"Neither have the right," she told the Times. "How dare he and the mayor override our larger plan." Alaniz added to the paper that she has the legal authority to operate the school district and must do so under school board policies.
How did things escalate?
The paper said the dispute heightened Friday after Williams posted about it on his Facebook page and the police department's Facebook page — which he later deleted after some users called for protests at Alaniz's home.
Alaniz also threatened legal action in a Wednesday letter, the Times reported, which reads:
This letter serves as notification that Portage Township Schools expects the Portage Police Department and the city of Portage to adhere to the parameters outlined in our agreed-upon and board-approved school safety plan. In the event that this does not occur, Portage Township Schools will take the necessary actions up to and including filing an injunction detailing the actions invading the legal right of the school district to carry out our necessary operations in regard to the board-approved SRO plan. Furthermore, Portage Township Schools may possibly withhold payment for the assigned SROs and reconsider the finalization of the MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) due to the violation of this state statute.
What did the mayor say?
Snyder told the paper he has no problem with the district's safety plans, but additional Portage officers will continue to be assigned to township schools "especially with the heightened problems the nation has been dealing with the past two years."
"I simply have heeded their advice in what they believe is needed to adequately protect the schools. The school superintendent and Chief Williams have both put together exemplary plans that do not contradict; I believe and support both of them," the mayor continued in a written statement to the Times. "Superintendent Alaniz has provided a multi-jurisdictional approach that is great. Chief Williams and Portage have provided more resources and officers assist in making schools safer. In the end, no matter what the school’s position is (whether they want the officers in the building or we leave them in the parking lot), our schools will be safe."
(H/T: Blue Lives Matter)