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NHC School Board changes course on SRO policy, requires parental notification for student interrogations

Judy Justice
Screenshot taken from NHCS Board of Education Regular Board Meeting, September 7, 2021, YouTube Recording
Board member Judy Justice says the language in the policy must change to notify parents and guardians before children are questioned by law enforcement in a criminal matter.

At last night’s New Hanover County School Board meeting, members voted unanimously to change the policy that governs how and when School Resource Officers can question students in school.

After months of public discourse, board members led by Judy Justice voted unanimously to modify the language in the local guidelines, known as Policy 5120. The previous language had only required police and school administrators to “attempt” to contact parents before interrogating a student. That language, opponents argued, was in violation of state law.

Related: Initially eager to pass SRO policy, New Hanover school board now waffles amid criticism

The new, revised language —proposed by the Sheriff's Department — requires that parents be contacted.

Board member Stephanie Kraybill initially disagreed, arguing that it should be up to the police to determine what happens in the schools.

But board member Judy Justice said the policy needed to be changed.

“Parents should know that their children are being questioned...we need to look at that because ultimately we are the ones in charge, not the Sheriff's Department," she said.

Board members Hugh McManus and Stephanie Walker agreed.

Board Vice-Chair Nelson Beaulieu initially opposed changing the language — saying there was nothing else to discuss — but ultimately moved to amend the policy to comply with state law. The amended policy then passed unanimously.

The board also upheld the mask mandate in schools based on state requirements that school boards must vote monthly on the mandate. Several maskless protestors — who had presumably attended to protest the mandate — were escorted out of the building by Sheriff's deputies early in the meeting at the direction of Chair Stefanie Adams.

Bethanie is a freelance writer for WHQR. She was the 2021-2022 UNCW News Fellow during the pursuit of her M.A. in English. She holds a B.A. in Political Studies with a focus on Constitutional Law. Originally from California and Colorado, she is a Marine Corps Military Police Reserve officer and an Afghanistan War Veteran. Her civilian professional background includes corporate finance and legal litigation.