This post was published on 05/04/2021.
Land O’ Lakes, FL – (May 4, 2021) – At today’s regularly scheduled meeting, the Pasco County School Board approved an updated agreement with the Pasco Sheriff’s Office regarding information sharing. Below is a joint statement from Pasco School Superintendent Kurt Browning and Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco regarding the updated agreement. An earlier media alert pointed out that the School Board had not yet voted on the amended agreement. The agreement has now been approved with a unanimous vote.
The Pasco County School Board and the Pasco Sheriff’s Office have agreed on an updated agreement that voluntarily removes School Resource Officers’ (SROs) access to student data, including student grades, attendance, and discipline. Additionally, SROs will no longer have access to the school district’s Early Warning System, which designates which students are considered off-track, on-track or at-risk.
The updated document is the result of a review of agreements between the school district and Sheriff’s Office, with a particular emphasis on the legislatively required sharing of information as required by the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act.
As a member of the legislatively required threat-assessment team, the Sheriff’s Office’s U.S. Department of Justice grant-funded analyst will continue to have access to student information. This analyst also will continue to provide the school district with appropriate law enforcement information that impacts the safety and security of students, schools, and community.
In addition, members of the Sheriff’s Office Real Time Crime Center will maintain access as they currently have for use in the narrow instances of school threat assessments and public safety emergencies, such as a missing or abducted child or a threat to a school campus. However, as stated in the agreement, this access will not include grades. The updated agreement provides for an audit process through which Sheriff’s Office personnel will create a record of any school district data they access, as well as the reason it was necessary, in line with legislative mandates.
These updates serve to clarify and codify practices and procedures that were in place for more than 20 years without incident. It is imperative to note that these updates will have no impact on the safety and security of students, faculty and staff in Pasco County’s schools.
“This amended agreement will not in any way compromise the safety and security of students, staff and faculty at Pasco County’s schools,” said Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco. “It also will not impact our ongoing initiatives related to mental health and substance abuse, such as the successful #YouMatter campaign. We are voluntarily making this update to our agreement with the Pasco County School Board to ease any anxiety that parents may have as a result of misinformation perpetuated by media reports. To be clear, over the 20 years that our SROs have had access to this information, we have never relied on grades, attendance or school discipline to deem any child ‘at-risk for being a future criminal,’ nor do we use predictive policing, and this update to policy just further clarifies and reflects that reality. In addition, it is important to note that these positions are the only ones who had access to this information and it was never shared with patrol deputies or detectives.”
“This agreement strikes an appropriate balance between sharing and the continued safeguarding of student privacy,” said Kurt Browning, Superintendent of Pasco Schools. “Our partnership with the Sheriff’s Office is strong and our students and staff will continue to benefit from our excellent working relationship.”
Despite these updated provisions, SROs will continue to provide positive mentorship to students. SROs will continue to work hand-in-hand with parents or guardians of those children who have engaged in criminal behavior, as they do in the Sheriff’s Office’s successful diversion program. SROs will continue to focus primarily on keeping children, faculty and staff safe, while also serving as coaches, club leaders and positive influences in the schools in which they serve.
The SRO program was established in Pasco County Schools more than 30 years ago, and agreements, practices and trainings have been updated numerous times as appropriate.