Police and school admin can’t agree on training, forcing SROs out of most schools

HAZELWOOD, Mo. – Millions of people have watched a horrific after-school fight in Hazelwood online, which has revived an old but relevant conversation about safety.

As the bell rings at 2:15 p.m., students leave Hazelwood West High School for the day. As they dismiss, a Hazelwood police car is parked outside. It’s a school resource officer (SRO) assigned every day to protect the school.

Across town, the FOX Files investigators spotted a parked St. Louis County police SUV. Don’t be fooled, though; it’s an extra patrol, not a school resource officer.

“I think SROs are very important,” parent Elizabeth Jackson said.

Jackson has been keeping a close eye on what’s happening inside the Hazelwood School District after Kaylee Gain, 16, suffered a fractured skull and brain bleed during a March 8 fight.

“I was very happy when Hazelwood brought them back to West. I think they are a deterrent and I think that when things do happen, it’s nice to have them here for a quick response,” Jackson said.

St. Louis County Police, Florissant Police, and, briefly, Hazelwood Police, shared concern over the district’s mandate to send officers to 10 minimum hours of diversity, equity and inclusion training organized by the school.

In a 2021 letter, the departments told the school board that officers already receive ongoing training, including interpersonal perspectives, racial profiling, implicit bias and de-escalation. The instructors, subject-matter experts, and classes are approved by the Missouri Peace Officers Standards and Training (POST).

The police agencies and school district did not come to an agreement, ending the relationship and pulling the school resource officers out of all Hazelwood schools.

About two years later, Hazelwood got a new police chief and the school district got its way, at least on the west side.

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A contract obtained under the state’s open-record law reveals Hazelwood Police agreed to send officers through 10 hours of diversity, equity and inclusion training coordinated by the school. The agreement paved the way to put SROs back in Hazelwood West High School and Hazelwood West Middle School, which fall under the Hazelwood Police jurisdiction but not in Hazelwood East, which is in the county police boundary where Gain attended school.

Cellphone video captured the brutal March 8 fight. Gain suffered serious injuries, including a fractured skull and a brain bleed. She has been unconscious since the fight and it’s unclear what her road to recovery looks like.

“I don’t think they had a school resource officer because of a disagreement on this really woke policy,” Senator Eric Schmitt (R-MO) said. “Putting divisive ideology before student safety is a big mistake.”

On Friday, the FOX Files tried to speak with Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey about the fight. His team stepped in, saying he did not have time before he was driven away.

On Wednesday, Bailey called for an investigation into the district’s mandated diversity, equity, and inclusion training.

“By putting DEI agendas ahead of protecting students and neglecting to have law enforcement presence on campus, Hazelwood School District has failed in its fundamental duty to ensure a safe learning environment,” Bailey posted on his social media.

In a joint statement, Florissant and County Police confirmed no agreement has been reached with the school district but the agencies are hopeful for the future.

“We are committed to collaborating on solutions to the youth violence issues we are experiencing and look forward to the return of our school resource officers in the Hazelwood School District,” the agencies wrote.

For days, the FOX Files has tried to speak with top school officials like Superintendent Dr. Nettie Collins-Hart, who, according to the Post-Dispatch, hauls in about $278,987 or one of her many Hazelwood East principals, making a combined total of more than $800,000, but no one will do an interview.

After a final attempt to get a comment from the superintendent, district communications director Jordyn Elston said she had no comment. An hour later, Elston sent a statement, writing that the safety and well-being of students are top priorities.

“The safety and well-being of our students is a top priority in the Hazelwood School District. We maintain a positive and collaborative relationship with Florissant Police and St. Louis County Police. We ensure that our schools remain safe environments where students can thrive and learn. While we have not reached a contract agreement with the Florissant Police Department and St. Louis County Police, we are hopeful for the future.”

St. Louis University Assistant Criminology Professor Kenya Brumfield-Young told FOX 2 that recent high school fights call for more than just stepped-up police support.

“We need to advocate for educational programs that promote conflict resolution, mental health awareness, anger management,” Brumfield-Young said.

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