- Due to high turnover, the Detroit Public Schools Community District school board has voted to phase out its contract with an outside security firm and bring those operations in-house, with principals now responsible for hiring and managing their own security guards, who will be trained by the Detroit Police Department and the district’s culture and climate department to work within district guidelines, Chalkbeat reports.
- The district plans to hire 91 full-time guards for 39 schools and is hoping to create a more “holistic strategy” toward security to help change a school culture that has been impacted by inconsistent code of conduct enforcement, leading to poor relationships between students and guards. Guards will not carry weapons or be authorized to make arrests, the article said.
- The district also hopes to correct the high turnover rate among security personnel, which was 57% at schools within the district using the outside firm, Securitas, this past year. The district will offer benefits and a $3 per hour increase in pay, though it expects to save money because it won’t have to pay Securitas administrative costs. A pilot this past school year had no turnover at the 12 schools using in-house security guards.
The Detroit district has an interesting history in regard to its security staff. In 2010, the district signed a contract with Securitas to hire 226 security officers at a cost of roughly $6.5 million, which was reportedly about half the $11 million the district was paying for in-house security. Leaders said about 11% of security guards were absent each day, which they felt was affecting the security of the district. The district also felt it was having trouble holding security officers accountable.
Now, nearly a decade later, the school district is returning to in-house security with some modifications. It appears the district wants to change the perception and role of law enforcement officers at schools in the wake of high turnover and incidents like one in 2016 where a security guard was accused of using inappropriate force during an encounter with a student.
It's unclear how the district plans to address the issue of absenteeism among guards, but direct management by principals under the new plan may help solve that problem.
While security is a top priority for school districts, leaders are also recognizing that the way security guards or school resource officers approach their jobs and the way they are trained has an impact on school climate. Some districts are reducing the number of security guards and hiring more counselors instead. Others are also embracing training in social-emotional learning skills for security officers, although those efforts are sometimes inconsistent. Finding the balance between safety and an overly hardened, prison-like environment remains an ongoing challenge for school leaders.