The movement to redirect police funding towards social services and community care has ignited calls to re-examine police presence in schools.
In the last month alone, several school districts have decided to disband school-based officers while urging their communities to shift funding towards other necessary services.
Consider Portland, Oregon. On June 4, 2020, Portland Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero announced that Oregon’s largest school district would “discontinue[e] the regular presence of school resource officers” and “ increase spending on social workers, counselors and culturally- specific supports for students.” Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler echoed this sentiment, explaining the decision to “discontinue using school resource officers in two smaller metropolitan districts under a program that in total costs the city $1.6 million a year.” In Wheeler’s words, “Leaders must listen and respond to the community. We must disrupt the patterns of racism and injustice.”
Other districts are headed in the same direction. Two days before the Portland announcement, the Minneapolis school district suspended its school resource program, and the Denver Post reported on June 5 that two members of the Denver school board had “called for the removal of police officers from the city’s public schools by the end of the year, saying law enforcement personnel not only are unnecessary on campuses, but detrimental to students of color.” Charlottesville, Virginia also disbanded its school-based police programs, while teachers unions in Oakland, Chicago, Madison, and Seattle are urging the same.
Instead of relying on police to fulfill core educational functions, now is the time for schools to fund mental health professionals, academic support, and other evidence-based programs. Particularly in light of the twin pandemics of coronavirus and engrained structural racism, the scarce funding available should focus on what works best for students.