Oakland district moves closer to eliminating school police

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Oakland’s school superintendent is backing a proposal to eliminate the school police force, which critics have long argued contributes to the criminalization of young black people.

Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammel and a majority of the school board support the proposal introduced at Wednesday’s meeting. A final vote is expected in two weeks.

“It has become clear that the District can no longer sit quietly and employ its own police force amid countless acts of violence, particularly against black men and boys,” according to the proposed resolution. “The perpetuation of the school-to-prison pipeline is incompatible with our goal of creating safe, healthy, and equitable schools for all district students.”

The measure was named for George Floyd, the black man who died in Minneapolis after a white officer pressed a knee to his neck for nearly nine minutes as Floyd gasped that he couldn’t breathe. His death last month sparked worldwide protests against racism and police brutality and raised calls to reduce funding for or eliminate police departments.

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More and more districts are also reconsidering school resource officers amid protests over Floyd’s death. The largest school district in Oregon, Portland Public Schools, cut ties with the Portland Police Bureau. The future of these programs were also being debated in a handful of other urban districts from Minneapolis to Denver, and Seattle schools are kicking officers off campus for a year to evaluate the partnership with police.

Oakland’s district has about a dozen officers that patrol 118 schools. The district spends about $2.5 million a year on the force — money that would be put to other uses.

The effort to eliminate the school police force has been led by the Black Organizing Project, a community group that has campaigned for its demise for a decade.

“The Oakland Unified School District has a long record of disproportionately punishing and arresting Black students, forcing them into the criminal justice system,” Oakland City Councilmember Nikki Fortunato Bas said in a statement released by the group. “While Black students are 26% of OUSD students, they represent 73% of all students who are arrested.”

Roseann Torres, who co-sponsored the proposal, said the district could come up with an alternative safety plan for its 49,000 students that might include security cameras, locks on doors and possibly using Oakland city police in emergencies, the San Jose Mercury News reported.

“We’re not doing this to leave our children to be harmed,” she said.

Teachers, principals and other staff call for police help more than 2,000 times every year, according to district data cited by the San Francisco Chronicle.

San Francisco’s schools rely on city police but officials there are considering dissolving the relationship, the Chronicle said.

School board President Mark Sanchez said he has received 4,000 emails in recent days supporting the idea.

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