Osceola Citizen Advisory Group Examines Role of Officers in Schools

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News 13 | by Cheryn Stone | February 11, 2021

KISSIMMEE, Fla. — A new group that formed in Osceola County to focus on safety in schools spent much of their first meeting Wednesday night discussing school resource officers after video surfaced showing an officer body-slamming a student at Liberty High School last month.

What You Need To Know
  • Citizen Advisory Group For School Safety established in Osceola County
  • Goal is to mitigate incidents and hold people accountable as needed
  • Osceola school board will eventually create an official SRO policy

Recently elected Osceola County School Board Member Julius Melendez said he felt compelled to do something after seeing the video, and he established the Citizen Advisory Group For School Safety.

“When I saw the video, right, wrong, or indifferent, I cannot in good conscience look at that and do nothing because then I’m complicit,” he said.

This was not an official School Board meeting. Melendez said the goal is to create a policy that mitigates incidents and holds people accountable. There is a minimum of one officer per school as mandated by the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act.

“Before it was kind of voluntary whether or not you were going to have SROs,” he said. “Now it became mandatory, so when they came into our schools there was almost a reluctance to tell law enforcement how to behave because we didn’t have precedents established before.”

Kissimmee Police Chief Jeffrey O’Dell was invited to speak about the SRO program at his department and the additional training they receive.

“I like the opportunity that we are going to sit down and talk about it,” he said. “Our number one goal is to keep our teachers safe and our students safe in schools and keep officers safe in doing the job they do.”

Melendez said the School Board will eventually create an official SRO policy.

“As a school board member, I do control the policies and the training and the requirements that staff do to include our SROs while they are on our campus,” he said.

Melendez says Osceola Sheriff Lopez declined an invitation to attend Wednesday night.