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School District of La Crosse

School District of La Crosse halts SRO contract following harassment of Criminal Justice Management Council member

From the COLLECTION: The future of SROs in La Crosse schools -- follow coverage leading to decision series
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After the online harassment of a La Crosse County Criminal Justice Management Council member and her subsequent resignation from the group, the School District of La Crosse has halted its school resource officer memorandum of understanding.

In a release Thursday morning, Aaron Engel, superintendent for the school district, and Laurie Cooper Stoll, school board president, announced it is suspending the SRO contract out of concern for the safety of its members.

“No community member, let alone one who strives to fulfill a civic duty in service to us all, should have their safety endangered in this way,” the district’s statement said.

Aaron Engel

Engel

“The actions against a member of the CJMC and efforts to prevent the creation of a police oversight committee call into question whether the School District of La Crosse can fulfill the recommendations of the district’s SRO program evaluation report without endangering the members of the SRO advisory committee and school district employees,” it said.

Findings of the district’s SRO program evaluation were released in December and revealed numerous actions should be taken in order for the program to continue, including the creation of an SRO advisory committee, comprised of community members. The district, Engel says, “accepted the report with the understanding that these recommendations would be codified in a new SRO memorandum of understanding.”

The evaluation also led to a vote from the school board to phase police out of its schools over several years, and the district was prepared to enter a new contract that reduced the amount of officers from five to three this summer. However, Engel and Cooper Stoll say the district is “deeply concerned” by the intimidation of Striebel by the local police union, the La Crosse Professional Police Supervisors & Officers Association. In posts on the association’s Facebook page, Striebel’s qualifications and views were questioned, and photos from her own Facebook page were shared.

Joella Striebel

In addition, the statement said the school board and district administration are “committed to public transparency regarding the SRO program.

“Until written assurances are made and steps outlined to ensure that employees of the school district and members of the SRO advisory committee will not face harassment and intimidation for providing oversight of the program, the (district) cannot enter into a new SRO memorandum of understanding,” the district’s statement said.

Community members and organizations have spoken out since Stribel announced at last week’s CJMC meeting that she would be resigning.

“I never anticipated that volunteering my time to help improve our community would negatively impact my life, safety and health, but it has. In recent weeks, I have been singled out by law enforcement leaders and publicly identified as an enemy of the police,” Striebel said in a statement.

Laurie Cooper Stoll

Stoll

Mayor Tim Kabat and the YWCA of La Crosse, which awarded Striebel the Linda Riddle Community Advocate of the Year award in 2019, spoke out against the harassment of Striebel, and La Crosse Police Department chief Sean Kudrow said he had apologized to Striebel and that he and the department “do not support words and actions of divisiveness.”

The district’s current MOU with the La Crosse Police Department for the SRO program remains in place through June 2021.

Emily Pyrek can be reached at emily.pyrek@lee.net. Olivia Herken can be reached at olivia.herken@lee.net.

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