Pasco school district will limit school resource officers’ access to student data

An agreement between the Pasco County School District and sheriff’s office has been altered after the U.S. Department of Education opened an investigation into whether the district was breaking federal law.

The agreement came to light after an investigation by the Tampa Bay Times found the school district shared student information with school resource officers, such as grades, attendance and who they associated with. The Times found that the sheriff’s office then allegedly used that information to compile a list of students whom they think might "fall into a life of crime."

However, during a Tuesday school board meeting, that changed after a unanimous vote by board members. SROs will no longer have access to the school district’s early warning system, which designates students as "off-track," "on-track," or "at-risk."

It also removes SROs access to student information, including student grades, attendance, and discipline.

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Instead, the sheriff’s office will have access to limited information in emergency situations, such as an abducted child or a threat on campus.

"This agreement strikes an appropriate balance between sharing and the continued safeguarding of student privacy," said Kurt Browning, Superintendent of Pasco Schools, in a statement. "Our partnership with the Sheriff’s Office is strong and our students and staff will continue to benefit from our excellent working relationship."

Previously, the program was dubbed secretive as many parents didn’t know it existed in the first place. 
 "We are voluntarily making this update to our agreement with the Pasco County School Board to ease any anxiety that parents may have as a result of misinformation perpetuated by media reports,’ Sheriff Chris Nocco said in a statement. "To be clear, over the 20 years that our SROs have had access to this information, we have never relied on grades, attendance or school discipline to deem any child ‘at-risk for being a future criminal,’ nor do we use predictive policing, and this update to policy just further clarifies and reflects that reality."

Nocco said SROs "never shared with patrol deputies or detectives."

It's unclear whether the federal probe is still ongoing.