The Madison Metropolitan School District recently joined a growing list of districts across the country removing police officers from schools.
While it’s certain school resource officers will not be in the four MMSD comprehensive high schools this fall for the first time in two decades, the safety and security plans for the schools remain to-be-determined.
School Board president Gloria Reyes hopes the board will create a committee this month to begin the discussions, and some board members want to see a report from administration with plans for the short-term — the upcoming school year — and the long-term by mid-August.
Most of the changes have come since former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd, a Black man, while making an arrest May 25. Chauvin kneeled on Floyd’s neck for nearly eight minutes as the man said, “I can’t breathe.”
Chauvin faces charges of second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Two other officers who were kneeling on Floyd and a third who was standing nearby face charges of aiding and abetting.
The Cap Times looked through news reports, public agendas and meeting minutes to analyze what other districts are doing for the upcoming school year as they adjust to schools without officers.
Most, like Madison, are still figuring it out.
Twin Cities, Minnesota
The Minneapolis School Board was the first to end its SRO program following Floyd’s death.
The board voted on June 2 to approve a resolution terminating its contract with the Minneapolis Police Department and directing the superintendent to “cease any further negotiations” with the department for SRO services.
The resolution also called for the superintendent to report back to the School Board with safety recommendations by Aug. 18.
Madison School Board member Christina Gomez-Schmidt tried to introduce an amendment with a similar timeline — Aug. 20 — on June 29, but staff said it was not appropriate given the meeting notice and wording. Reyes suggested that could be part of the resolution creating a committee this month.
Minneapolis’ resolution also included a requirement the superintendent provide a staffing model “that includes behavior intervention specialists and mental health workers for high-needs schools to ensure the safety of students.”
The city’s neighbor in St. Paul followed suit three weeks later, June 23, voting to cease negotiations for a new contract with the police department for SROs and develop a new safety plan, according to the Pioneer Press.
Its motion also directs the superintendent to “develop an interim safety plan” to be discussed in August, create a districtwide school climate and safety implementation committee to report out in December and convene building implementation groups.
The nearby Winona School District also ended its contract in June, giving the 90-day notice allowed under its contract that it would withdraw. The superintendent is required to present a “temporary safety plan” to the board within 60 days.
Milwaukee ends contract
Wisconsin’s largest school district ended its contract with the police department 11 days before Madison.
Milwaukee Public Schools had previously ended the presence of school resource officers inside buildings throughout the school day, but officers were still contracted to patrol neighborhoods around some schools, monitor dismissal times and staff some athletic events.
The board’s resolution also pointed to the “uncertain” budget situation, citing the need to prioritize funding toward “resources needed to make schools safe.” The board also directed the superintendent to cease any contracts to “buy or maintain criminalizing equipment” like metal detectors, facial recognition software or social media monitoring.
The superintendent is required to present recommendations for the immediate reallocation of the money previously paid to the Milwaukee Police Department for board approval by August.
In Milwaukee, the youth-led advocacy group Leaders Igniting Transformation had pushed for years to end contracts with police.
Around the country
Other districts around the country have taken a mix of approaches.
In Denver, for example, the district will phase out its officers throughout the 2020-21 school year, with that time used to “redefine school safety” in the district “through the lens of affirmative support of students.” According to Chalkbeat, the district also has a force of more than 100 unarmed and armed security officers that it oversees.
Under the resolution, the superintendent must reallocate SRO funds toward mental and behavioral health professional positions, convene a task force on school safety, revise safety policies and do not replace SROs with consistently present security officers armed with guns. The board also required a monthly discipline report during the transition period and asked the superintendent to convene a group by Aug. 31 to discuss new policy and plans.
The west coast has also been a hotspot for districts cutting ties with police.
In Seattle, the district put its contract on pause, with no SRO presence for the 2020-21 school year.
“The indefinite moratorium on this relationship will give the board and senior leadership the opportunity to meet with the students, educators, administrators, and families regarding their experience with Student Emphasis (and Resource) Officers in order to better understand their role and to make an informed decision on their presence in our schools going forward,” the resolution said.
The Portland, Oregon, School Board passed a resolution in June supporting its superintendent’s decision to end the presence of SROs. The superintendent was directed to provide regular updates to the school board on implementing plans to “create and support affirming school climates.”
In Oakland, California, where the district had its own police force, the board voted to eliminate the department and reallocate its funds toward student support positions. The superintendent is required to launch an “inclusive, community-driven process” for completing a revised safety plan by Aug. 21.
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