A Madison School Board committee has finalized budget recommendations in an effort to maintain the well-being of students in police-free schools, including funds for restorative justice training for staff and increased student mental health support.
The committee, formed less than six months ago, met for the last time Thursday, but the School Board will continue to seek guidance from members as they work to implement recommendations.
“We have to move with a sense of urgency before we open up our schools,” School Board President Gloria Reyes said. “It is time now to put this all together and make these recommendations to the board.”
- A three- to five-year plan to implement holistic restorative justice, in which parties to an incident can reconcile, along with the addition of two full-time staff members focused on restorative justice for students in all high schools.
- Facility improvements that include dedicated spaces to support student mental health.
- The establishment of an ongoing advisory group to involve community members, youth and families in punitive measures.
- The creation of a Superintendent Advisory Committee composed of community partners, families and students to develop a plan to enhance student and community roles in school safety.
- A structured debriefing process after each incident involving law enforcement in schools.
- Reduction of class size.
- Continued efforts to develop, recruit and keep staff of color.
- Hiring of additional support staff.
- Committee recommendations will be shared with the full School Board in January for review and discussion with the goal of including them in next year’s budget process.
Savion Castro, committee chair, will update board members on the recommendations before a special meeting at the end of January to present the report to the board. On Feb. 15, the board will have another meeting with public comment to discuss the recommendations before they are included in Superintendent Carlton Jenkins’ first budget.
Members were split on whether the length of time between the committee’s formation and its dissolution was enough to fully flesh out a plan to support safety and security for Madison students.
“We spent decades harming Black children, we spent two, three years on an ERO Ad Hoc Committee and we are supposed to meet in a few months to figure out how to repair all of that,” said Bianca Gomez, committee member and Gender Justice Coordinator with Freedom Inc. “I just don’t think that this is enough time. I think it would be helpful if we could tell the board that these are our preliminary recommendations. … I don’t think that this process was expansive enough to deal with something of this magnitude.”
Castro said members could have the option to join the Superintendent Advisory Committee, which would give them direct access to the implementation of their recommendations.
“Folks who want to be involved on that committee will have access to provide feedback … in terms of how things are being implemented,” he said. “If you identify any policy discrepancies that don’t meet our values, you’ll still be able to make recommendations to the board. … This is not the last that we’ll all be talking about this.”
The Safety and Security Ad Hoc Committee was formed to determine how to best maintain the well-being of students in Madison schools without the presence of police officers.
The School Board voted unanimously to terminate contracts with local law enforcement in June and the City Council voted near unanimously to remove police officers from school buildings over the summer, following protests of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody in May.
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