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Despite reports to the contrary from other media, the STOP program will continue in both J.I. Case and Washington Park High Schools this school year.

Both Art Howell and Tim Zarzecki, police chiefs of Racine and Mount Pleasant, respectively, and Racine Unified spokesperson Stacy Tapp confirmed that STOP (Students Talking it Over with Police) is still active.

“The partnership between the Racine Police Department and Racine Unified School District pertaining to the STOP program is still active. Both organizations plan to continue the STOP program in the upcoming year,” Tapp said in an email.

Students who participate in STOP do so voluntarily after being recommended by their teachers and/or school counselors. STOP classes meet once a week for seven weeks.

In the story, reporter Patrick Thomas lists a number of issues critics voiced that led to the end of STOP in MPS:

  • Use of force role-playing
  • Reciting a pledge that says students will carry their STOP card at all times and never run from, argue with or fight with police
  • The lack of community involvement in the curriculum
  • STOP was presented to elementary school students despite being designed for high school students

Critics say the program is not only not age-appropriate but it is also teaching students to fear police instead of forging positive connections as the program was intended. The story also stated that STOP was ending in Racine Unified after just a year, but that report is not only false, but the points listed as issues are not how the program is run here.

Specifically, Tapp said:

  • The STOP curriculum in RUSD is updated and has gone through several incarnations since STOP was first implemented in 2012
  • Use of force role playing is not part of any classroom instruction
  • Researchers from the UWM were either present, or recorded classroom instruction to be sure instructors were adhering to the curriculum and goals of the program
  • The STOP program was only implemented in Racine Unified high school and upper grade middle school students, never with elementary students
  • The Racine Unified STOP program does not include a pledge

Howell also weighed in, saying the role playing his officers conduct with students are meant to educate how certain situations – like traffic stops – are seen from the officer’s perspective.

“Most notably, our S.T.O.P. Instructors do not conduct role play exercises involving the use of deadly force,” he said. “This exercise and others are essentially designed to provide students with insight and information on how and why police stops are conducted from the perspective of a patrol officer. This training is two-way in nature, allowing students to share their perspective with officers as well.”

STOP will get underway again this fall after school has been in session for a few weeks.