HAYWARD — Police officers will continue to provide security at the city's high schools and middle schools after an agreement was reached that incorporates cultural sensitivity into the contract without usurping the authority of law enforcement.
"We are going in the right direction," said school board member Maribel Heredia. "We need officers who are culturally sensitive to the community. Our community has changed, and we need to change contracts to better serve the needs of the community."
Those changes to the contract — which was a groundbreaking partnership between the school district and police when drafted more than 30 years ago — include provisions that give the district a voice in who is appointed to serve as a school officer and the right to request an officer be replaced.
It also states that the officers must recognize that undocumented students share the same rights as U.S. citizens to attend public schools, and that a welcome and safe environment must be provided to all families who come to school campuses, regardless of immigration status.
The changes were spurred by an incident in which police questioned a parent at Tennyson High who had a felony immigration warrant and ultimately was turned over to immigration officials and deported.
Police Chief Ron Ace, who said the first draft of revisions was completely unacceptable, said the new version falls in line with what they already had been doing.
"It really did nothing other than articulate what is current practice anyway," Ace said. "The wording was not in the old contract, and I'm not sure it needed to be, but it now clarifies how the program is orchestrated for the board."
Parents who spoke at the Wednesday meeting — when the deal was unanimously approved by the board — said they appreciated the changes.
"I applaud the board for having the courage to improve the relationship between officers and students," Catalina Rodriguez said. "You could feel the friction, and we don't need that at our schools."
Eric Kurhi covers Hayward. Contact him at 510-293-2473.