City Solicitor: Council Has No Say in Police Officers at Worcester Schools

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WORCESTER – The Worcester city council has no jurisdiction in school committee-related operations — including with regard to the services of Worcester police officers in schools, according to the legal opinion of City Solicitor David M. Moore.

The question of jurisdiction was brought forth in an order from City Councilor At-Large Konstantina Lukes at the March 19 City Council meeting.

Lukes’ order read: “Request City Manager provide a legal opinion as to the legal jurisdiction of the City Council regarding policies, practices and programs of the School Department and further as to the jurisdiction of the School Committee to enter into contracts with the Worcester Police Department and the liability for payment of the those services without oversight of the City Council.

In a communication from Moore to City Manager Edward M. Augustus, Jr., Moore said that (1) the city council has no jurisdiction over the policies, practices or programs of the school department, (2) since the WPD and the school department are both part of the legal entity “City of Worcester,” they cannot make a legally binding contract with themselves — and are responsible for their own operations, and (3) both departments are free to choose to continue their agreement so long as its in their best interests.

Earlier this month, District 4 City Councilor Sarai Rivera expressed her displeasure with the School Department’s plan to place a full-time police officer at Claremont Academy as requested by the school’s principal Angela Plant for next school year’s budget.

School Committee member Dante Comparetto filed an order at the March 21 school committee meeting to request that the school administration reconsider assigning a school resource officer [SRO] at Claremont.

Comparetto went as far as to say the school department should put an end to the SRO program entirely.

“School discipline rates are going up — especially for communities of color. And we are now hearing about incidents between police and students. The fact that we are now hearing about a new SRO at schools like Claremont give me further concern,” Comparetto said, adding that the school department can’t afford the program and money should be allocated to other student support services.

According to Augustus, the school department has appropriated $120,000 each year since 1994 and has paid the Worcester Police Department for school liaison services.

Burncoat High, Doherty Memorial, South High, North High and Worcester Technical High all have full-time police officers on duty. Two other resources officers cover the remaining schools in the district. The Worcester Police cover all of the remaining expenses — upwards of $1 million per year, according to Augustus  — that are generated by the school liaison program.

At the March 21 school committee meeting, Superintendent Maureen Binienda continued to support the measure of placing the officer at Claremont Academy and said, “We’re not going to remove [the SRO] from [Plant’s] allocation request.”

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    Patrick Sargent is the founder and lead reporter for He was born and raised on Grafton Hill and is a graduate of Holy Name high school and Worcester State University. Over the past two years, he worked as a contributing reporter for the Worcester Sun. Previous to that, over the course of several years, he had stints with GoLocalWorcester, Worcester Magazine, the Leominster Champion and Fitchburg Pride. He is the owner of Sargent Media, LLC and can be contacted at [email protected] or 774-232-1223.