California’s top schools official said Wednesday his office is working to re-imagine the role of police officers at the state’s 10,000 public schools but said some schools would still need officers on campus to protect students’ safety.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond said the officers would be needed to protect students from dangers, including school shootings or bomb threats but officers would no longer be called upon to discipline misbehaving students.
"As a former school board member, I spent four years working very closely with school resource officers," Thurmond said. "But I’ve already seen data that shows when there’s police on campus, this results in more suspensions and arrests, particularly for African American students and other students of color."
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Thurmond, who is California’s only Black statewide elected official, said schools that still need a police presence would get officers who choose to be there and who have been trained on implicit bias. He said officers won’t be assigned to campuses.
He said his office has convened a task force that includes legislators, researchers, law enforcement officials and advocacy groups that will look at how to address security issues at public schools.
Thurmond’s announcement preceded an Oakland Unified School District Board vote Wednesday night to eliminate the district’s police department.The board voted unanimously to redirect millions in police funding to services for students. Oakland city police would handle emergency calls instead of the school force of 10 sworn officers and 50 unarmed campus security guards. However, because of union contracts, the measure won’t take effect immediately.
Oakland is one of 19 school districts in California with its own police department.
On Tuesday, the San Francisco Board of Education voted to cut ties with city police amid protests against police brutality across the country.
Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to end an agreement with the San Francisco Police Department involving 12 armed police officers assigned to respond to calls at schools.
The arrangement also included a district payment of $46,000 to help cover the cost of a police liaison, who oversaw a program that provided specialized training to the 12 officers.
Schools throughout the nation are grappling with how to address demands to get police officers out of schools amid protests against police brutality following the death last month of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
The Oakland resolution to eliminate school police was named for Floyd.
On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Unified School District, the second-largest in the nation, rejected a proposal to cut the campus police budget by 90% by 2024.
The board of United Teachers Los Angeles, the powerful teachers union, recently voted to call for defunding the school police department and using $63 million of its $70 million budget for counseling and other student services.
However, some board members said they wouldn’t want to make the cuts unless there was another plan to guarantee the safety of the district’s 735,000 students.