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PASCO Coalition Responds to Revised Agreement between Pasco County School Board and Sheriff

PASCO COUNTY, Fla. - The PASCO Coalition issued the following statement today after the Pasco County School Board and Sheriff’s Office announced changes to its predictive policing program without community input during a school board meeting:
“The PASCO Coalition is extremely disappointed by the Pasco Sheriff’s Office (“Sheriff”) and the Pasco County School Board’s (“District”) announcement of “revisions” to their data sharing agreement. While these revisions were touted as reforms that were responsive to the “distracting” criticisms the program was receiving, these revisions do not go far enough in limiting the Sheriff’s access to student records. The revisions claim to remove SROs’ access to student data, but maintain access for various other agencies, including the Sheriff’s Office itself. There continues to be a lack of transparency. The Sheriff and the District have again excluded the community, including parents from this process. Our coalition also has outstanding concerns about the way that this predictive policing program has and will continue to impact Pasco County families. These are fully addressed in the open letter we sent to the District today, in advance of the school board meeting. We urge the District and Sheriff to carefully consider and engage with the numerous issues that we have identified in our open letter as they move forward.
“In today’s school board meeting, the District unanimously voted to approve an undisclosed revised data sharing agreement with the Sheriff that does not significantly change the original one. However, the item was not on the agenda, there was no opportunity for public comment, and, to our knowledge, there still has been no opportunity for the public to review and provide feedback on the revised agreement. The PASCO Coalition obtained a copy of the revised agreement through a public records request to the District, and the revisions are insufficient to protect the rights of children whose information will still be accessible to the Sheriff’s Office.
“The PASCO Coalition is extremely concerned about the continued lack of transparency, community-driven solutions, and public input around this program. Neither the District nor the Sheriff has addressed what the Sheriff is doing with the 20 years of student records in its possession. Further, there is no process to notify parents and guardians about whether their children’s information was provided to the Sheriff, and if so, how it was used. Given the Sheriff’s and District’s admissions about the unfettered access that was permitted for decades, these concerns must be addressed. In addition, questions remain about the ways in which this program especially targets children of color, children with disabilities, and low-income students for police monitoring and surveillance. Those students and their parents or guardians deserve to have their questions answered by the Sheriff and the District.
“Furthermore, we have no assurances that the District will permanently prevent similar predictive practices from re-emerging once national attention has abated. This was only a revision to the contract that expires at the end of the 2020-21 school year. Nor is it clear that the current agreement has substantially limited access to federally-protected student records by the Sheriff’s Office as a whole, given vague language in the revised agreement that allows the Board to disclose student data to “other appropriate individuals” at its discretion,  the fact that other staff members of the Sheriff's Office will still have access to this protected data, and the absence of any stated parameters around how this data may be used or shared within their office.
“We need comprehensive policy overhauls and systems of accountability for meaningful reform and to prevent this from happening in the future. That process requires community at the table to design long-term solutions and to begin the process of rebuilding trust in the District and Sheriff’s Office.”