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Lebanon keeps school resource officer, for now

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 5/13/2021 12:55:36 AM
Modified: 5/13/2021 9:47:52 PM

LEBANON — Lebanon’s school resource officer will be on the job for another year while an outside firm studies issues regarding equity and race within the city’s schools.

The Lebanon School Board voted, 7-1, Wednesday night to fund the police post for the 2021-22 school year and also seek an equality assessment that could help guide future decisions.

That study would be due by Nov. 1, in time for the School Board’s budget talks for the 2022-23 school year.

The School Board’s decision came almost two hours into a meeting where speakers overwhelmingly called on officials to stop spending on the school resource officer post.

Most reiterated stories about Lebanon children, and particularly those of color, feeling uncomfortable with an armed officer patrolling their school.

The Lebanon teachers union, American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire and Lebanon High School Students of Color Collective, a student organization started in 2016, opposed the position.

It is supported by the Lebanon police union, New Hampshire Juvenile Police Officers Association and the National Association of School Resource Officers.

School Board member Stephen Kantor said he understood the public and students’ concerns about the post but still didn’t feel comfortable cutting the police funding.

“Like all of my colleagues here, I want to do the right thing,” he said. “However, it is my opinion that there is currently a lack of good, quality, locally relevant data that’s available that can guide me in this decision-making process.”

But board member Vice Chairwoman Jenica Nelan, the lone opposition vote, wondered whether her colleagues were simply “evading” a tough vote.

“I’m not convinced that more data’s going to solve this problem for us,” she said. “There’s only so much data that I think applies to the question and that applies to our district.”

Superintendent Joanne Roberts said the school district would likely issue a request for qualifications before choosing a firm for the study and try to coordinate so that work can be wrapped up on time.

“The majority of the work, I’m guessing, is going to be September to October because not a lot of people are around for the end of June, July and August,” she said. “I’m very open to learning about it and supporting the process (but) I’m going to have to rely on the RFQ and the experience of the organization/agency/individual that’s going to be doing this work.”

It’s not yet clear how much the study will cost the school district. Officials said Wednesday that it will likely come from end-of-year surplus funds.

City residents narrowly voted, 1,011-1,006, in March to approve a nonbinding proposal to do away with the school resource officer position currently held by Lebanon Police Officer Gregory Parthum.

The post costs around $120,000, with the expense shared equally between the school district and the city.

Tim Camerato can be reached at tcamerato@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.




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