Major Cities Wrestle With Proposals to End School Policing
School boards across the U.S. are considering proposals to get rid of school resource officers (SROs), police officers assigned to patrol public schools.
San Francisco became the largest school district so far to move toward defunding its SRO program yesterday, as the San Francisco Unified School District Board of Education unanimously approved a resolution to end its memorandum of understanding with the San Francisco Police Department. Across the bay, the Oakland school board also voted unanimously yesterday to eliminate the district’s police department and shift its $2.5 million budget to student support services. Minneapolis, Portland, Denver, Seattle, and Charlottesville have also ended or suspended relationships with local police departments in recent weeks.
But similar proposals in other major cities have stalled under concerns that quickly disbanding SRO programs will leave schools defenseless against security threats. The Chicago Board of Education rejected a proposal yesterday to end its $33 million contract with the Chicago Police Department (CPD).
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot opposed the proposal. “We all want change,” Lightfoot said prior to the vote. “But we want to do the right things. We don’t want to just do cosmetic changes or quick changes that end up creating more problems and make our communities and schools less safe.”
And in an 11-hour marathon session Tuesday, the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education, which oversees the second largest school district in the country, rejected three different proposals regarding school police, including one that would have gradually slashed its SRO budget by 90 percent.
Civil liberties groups and activists have been pressing to reduce the presence of police in schools for years, but with little success prior to the last month’s mass protests against abusive policing. They argue that the dramatic increase over the past few decades in SROs and in zero-tolerance policies, spurred by fears of mass shootings and drug crime, fuels the “school-to-prison pipeline” and leads to disproportionate enforcement against minority students for minor disturbances.
Reason recently reported on the expanded use of school resource officers in Florida following the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018—and a troubling number of arrests and uses of force against children with autism.
The Oakland school board resolution noted that black students make up 26 percent of the district’s student population, yet account for 73 percent of student arrests.
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