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RI POLICING

Tiverton High School resource officer removed after alleged reactions to student decorations

“No students were harmed or in harms way in the reported incidents and Tiverton Police continues to provide SRO support for the School District,” the school said in a statement

TIVERTON, R.I. — A local police officer was removed as school resource officer in late December and placed on paid leave during an investigation.

The Tiverton School District said in a brief announcement on Monday that it was made aware of “a situation” and was working with the proper authorities.

“As of December 23rd, 2022, our SRO is no longer employed by the Tiverton School District,” the district said in a social media post. “No students were harmed or in harms way in the reported incidents and Tiverton Police continues to provide SRO support for the School District.”

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In an interview with WJAR, the father of a Tiverton High School senior identified the officer as Jacob Rapoza, and said the incident concerned the officer’s reaction to students decorating his office door for the holidays.

Students had taped black and white balloons, red and lime-green streamers, and other decorations to the door and walls outside the school resource officer’s office. Pictures of their decorations were posted on Instagram, on a private Tiverton High School Class of 2023 page administered by a student, the student’s father, William Gerlach, told WJAR.

The decorations were apparently part of the school’s regular “Deck the Halls” tradition.

Gerlach said Rapoza responded to the pictures using his personal Instagram account, calling the decorations “vandalism” and exchanging comments with students. Gerlach told WJAR that he intervened and “shut down the conversation” when the police officer commented: “Should you really be messing with someone who can deck your driving record with citations.”

“I think the concern from my daughter and the other students involved was that they felt threatened they felt afraid of retaliation,” Gerlach said. He declined to comment about the incident to the Globe.






Amanda Milkovits can be reached at amanda.milkovits@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @AmandaMilkovits.