Durham County

G.R.E.A.T. no more. Durham police to end ties to popular program at 17 more schools

Durham Police officers will no longer teach the GREAT curriculum at any of Durham’s public schools.
Durham Police officers will no longer teach the GREAT curriculum at any of Durham’s public schools.

Durham police officers will no longer teach its Gang Resistance Education and Training curriculum at any of more than 20 Durham public schools it served last year.

Tina Ingram, the school district’s director of security, confirmed Wednesday, July 26, that three police officers assigned to teach the gang and violence prevention curriculum at 17 elementary schools would not be in those schools this year.

Ingram said the officers had big impacts on the schools because in addition to teaching the G.R.E.A.T. curriculum, they got to know the students and staff and became a part of the school family.

“They’re not just teaching the curriculum, they’re spending the time and they become part of the school family,” Ingram said.

School Resource Officers employed by the Durham County Sheriff’s Office will continue to teach the G.R.E.A.T. curriculum at 19 Durham Public Schools’ elementary and middle schools the SROs served in 2016

It was reported earlier that police officers who taught the G.R.E.A.T. curriculum program in four middle schools and the Durham School of the Arts will no longer do so, but will remain on those campuses as School Resource Officers.

The police officers who taught G.R.E.A.T. at the elementary schools rotated through the 17 schools to teach the curriculum, but did not remain on the campuses to serve as SROs.

It was unclear Wednesday, July 26, why the decision was made to dump the popular G.R.E.A.T. curriculum at the elementary schools.

Police Chief Cerelyn Davis is expected to explain the decision Thursday, July 27, at a City Council work session to provide more information and answer questions.

DPS spokesman Chip Sudderth said Superintendent Bert L’Homme and Ingram will also attend the work session.

The role of SROs in DPS schools became a topic of debate this week after City Councilwoman Jillian Johnson raised concerns about a DPS decision to begin calling the city-paid officers SROs at the four middle schools and DSA this school year.

Ingram said the change in name at the four middle schools and DSA was made to better reflect the job the officers already perform at each school, which includes traffic control, addressing safety concerns and supporting students and school staff.

Johnson posted a warning on her Facebook page that students are much more likely to be arrested and/or charged with a crime when an SRO is on campus.

“There is little evidence that having police officers in schools improves student outcomes, but there is ample evidence that the criminalization of youth in schools leads to students being charged with crimes for incidents that should be seen as normal misbehavior,” Johnson wrote.

Johnson also questioned city and DPS administrators making the change without “formal discussion or a vote by either the City Council or the Board of Education.”

“Though it was within the rights of the city and DPS administration to make this decision without bringing it to the elected boards, I believe that this issue is important enough to merit a larger conversation in the community,” she said.

Greg Childress: 919-419-6645, @gchild6645