An update from Superintendent Greg Baker
We have the utmost respect for the work that our officers and first responders do in serving our community. As we said in our message on Thursday, July 16, they are community members alongside us, and many are parents in or alumni of our schools as well. We want to be very clear that pausing the lunch program is not meant to imply that our officers in Bellingham are not good people.
Pausing the lunch program has been part of the greater conversation around the role of police in schools, and, given that we won’t be able to welcome guests into our schools this fall anyway due to COVID-19 precautions, it seemed a natural time to press pause and take time to review and reevaluate the goals and possible outcomes of the lunch program.
The lunch program began during the 2018-19 school year, and included a broad group of first responders, including city police, firefighters, EMTs and county sheriffs. The intention behind the program was to build positive relationships and we heard many stories about that result; we also learned in some conversations that it can also contribute to anxiety or fear at school. We feel it is worth taking a step back and working with many voices from our community to build a program that has clear parameters and measurable outcomes.
In making this decision, we heard from staff, students and families about the program, both supportive and concerned. We have also heard directly from some first responders and/or their families as well, questioning this decision. Again, this is not about any individuals, it is part of a broader context of the role of police in schools. We will continue to have one district resource officer to support our 22 school sites, and we greatly value the good and necessary work this person does to support our district.