KEY POINTS

  • The cops who visited the homes worked as resource officers at the school
  • They work along with counselors to form wellness teams
  • These teams visit the houses of pupils flagged for absenteeism, behavioral issues and poor grades

While adapting to the new virtual learning environment itself is no mere challenge, a high school in Missouri seems to have made it furthermore difficult for parents and students. The school sent an armed cop to their homes to discuss poor performance.

Parents of Ritenour High School, St. Louis county, have raised concerns after an armed resource officer made house visits to discuss grades with students. Some parents described it as a “scare tactic” and a completely unwarranted escalation.

“I was shaking, my voice was cracking, I was emotional because I did not understand,” said Porsha Outen, a mother of a 15-year-old student at the high school. Outen said she was shocked to see the school resource officer along with a counselor at her doorstep without any prior notice on Monday. “I couldn't keep my eyes off his firearm,” she added, reported local news outlet KSDK.

Outen said that the officer asked her daughter about the work she was supposed to turn in and she answered him. He also asked her if she understood what she was saying to him.

“As a parent, I don't ever want my child to associate her education with a police officer, I don't want my child associating a grade that needs to be approved with a gun,” said Outen.

Christine Troupe, another parent who had a similar experience on Tuesday called it a “scare tactic." “The implication of the police showing up to your house is like you've done something wrong and it's like even if you've not done anything it's that feeling of something is criminal is happening here,” Troupe said. She feels that it was not a conducive method to help the students if such visits were intended to make them more accountable.

police-378255_640 The "wellness" teams have made 1500 house visits since August. Photo: pixabay

The police officers from St. Ann, St. John and Breckenridge Hills work as resource officers in the Ritenour school district. These resource officers work along with counselors to serve the “wellness team." The team works in pairs to visit the houses of students flagged for absenteeism, behavioral issues and poor grades. These house visits have increased significantly since the virtual learning began in August, reported news outlet St. Louis Post Dispatch.

“We have seen a decline in student performance, and we’re using this wellness team as a strategy to try to connect kids to school,” said Chris Kilbride, Ritenour superintendent. He said the teams have completed 1500 visits since August.

Kilbride agreed that the presence of the officer is “triggering” and has promised to set up a parent advisory committee to allow both parents and students to refine the plan. “We've gotten that feedback now so now the responsibility is on us in that specific situation to act differently,” Kilbride said.