Police visits concern parents

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Five Prairie Trace parents addressed the school board at its May 20 meeting to express concerns about student conflicts that increased police visits to the elementary school this spring.

Parents receive e-mail alerts when a police officer is called to the school to assist with student conflicts. Thirteen officer visits to Prairie Trace occurred from February to May.  One parent pointed out that another local elementary had only two visits in the same period.

Carmel Clay Community Relations Coordinator Tricia Reynolds explained comparisons are misleading. Local elementary schools usually request assistance from the nearest middle school resource officer and these do not appear in public records as police visits.

“When a school resource officer cannot respond to a school immediately, the school is always encouraged to request assistance from our friends at the police department,” Reynolds said.

The parents, who later asked not to be identified by Current, described student meltdowns witnessed in the wing that serves the emotional disability program as well as the school’s kindergarteners. The parents requested the ED program be relocated to an area closer to staff offices. They said this relocation would ensure faster staff response, reduce class disturbance and maintain the dignity of the students being disciplined.

Each parent emphasized they were not requesting the removal of the program, and they requested more information about how student conflicts are handled.

Reynolds explained the schools have a partnership with the Carmel Police Dept.

“We encourage our school administrators to reach out for assistance and to be proactive in ensuring a safe environment no matter how insignificant the concern may be,” Reynolds said.

Federal law protects student confidentiality regarding police calls. The e-mail alerts omit all student information including the actions that spurred the call.

Reynolds pointed out nothing indicates the police assistance involved students in the program. Reynolds could not reveal whether calls involved separate student incidents or one recurring student’s struggles.

“We need better communication, more information,” another parent said. One parent suggested the alerts escalate fear because they do not clarify whether an incident involved behavior or assault issues.

“We would like the community to know that we are a public institution that happily educates all the children of Carmel,” Reynolds said.  “We work diligently to provide a safe environment for every single child and staff member. Safety is our number one priority.”

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