Re-1 school board open to SRO policy talks
September 29, 2011
GLENWOOD SPRINGS – The Roaring Fork Re-1 school board is willing to at least consider a suggested policy that would address concerns about school resource police officers working alongside the federal agency charged with immigration enforcement.
But board members and district administrators do not want that discussion to delve into allegations against any of the individual officers assigned by local police chiefs to work in that capacity in district schools.
“We need to separate the policy from the situation in Carbondale,” school board member Bill Lamont said Wednesday at the Re-1 board meeting in Glenwood Springs. “It’s not appropriate for this board to be discussing that.”
Lamont was speaking to allegations by two immigrant rights groups, the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition (CIRC) and a local student advocacy group, Asociacion de Jovenes Unidos en Accion (AJUA), against the police officer currently serving as Carbondale’s resource officer (SRO).
Through testimonies gathered from Latino students and families, the groups claim that officer Alvaro Agon has been pulling double duty as an informant for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE).
That relationship, the groups allege, has resulted in some family members of school students being detained and even deported by ICE for immigration violations.
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The situation has created an uneasy atmosphere for Latino students in Carbondale schools, and possibly other communities including Glenwood Springs, they claim.
Agon, through his attorney, has denied the group’s allegations, but admits he did work as a liaison with ICE’s inter-agency anti-gang task force up until earlier this year when the accusations began to surface.
“It was an unfortunate situation that he got put in,” Lamont said. “But I do feel that it’s important to have the school resource officers … it’s part of putting a human face on our police officers.”
As for a district policy on the officers working with ICE, it’s an appropriate discussion for the school board to have, board member Debbie Bruell said.
“There is a theoretical question here,” she said. “Should we have SROs working with ICE, and do we think that’s appropriate?”
The school board heard from representatives of both groups at the Wednesday meeting, who urged the district to adopt a policy prohibiting SROs from working in any capacity with ICE.
“Even if there are gangs, and I agree we don’t want that in our schools and it should be stopped … these officers shouldn’t be collaborating with ICE,” said Alex Alvaredo, a former Roaring Fork High School student body president who graduated in May and now attends Colorado Mountain College.
“I know police departments have limited resources, but maybe it’s better if it was a DEA officer [instead of ICE],” he suggested. “Drugs have more of a negative effect on students than undocumented immigrants.”
CIRC’s western Colorado representative, Brendan Greene, said the groups want the school board to take a stance on the issue.
“We believe this is really a simple issue, and a clear-cut matter of principle, whether it’s proper for these officers to have this relationship,” Greene said.
“We all want safe, excellent schools,” he said. “But this relationship is creating a level of distrust among students and their families that we shouldn’t be creating.”
Re-1 Superintendent Judy Haptonstall said the SRO program was designed as a way for local police officers to develop positive relationships with young people, “rather than kids only seeing them when they’re in trouble.”
“The program is designed to build a stronger bond between the community police officers and the kids,” she said.
The school district contributes $15,000 each to the Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt police departments to support the SRO program. However, the district currently does not have a specific policy guiding its participation in the program, Haptonstall said.