Apparently, locals and officials in San Francisco don’t like the idea of police officers protecting our kids throughout the school districts.
While the reasoning is all over the place, it can essentially be boiled down to people not wanting members of law enforcement to… you know… enforce the law.
Well guess what?
Laws don’t end at where the walls of the school begin. But even with special guidelines spelled out in a contract with police, some parents and local leaders think the presence of law enforcement on school grounds is simply too much.
So they want them gone.
The current five-year memorandum of understanding between the San Francisco Unified School District and the San Francisco Police Department expired last January. A new contract with revisions that included stronger language intended to decriminalize youth was presented to the school board this week, but some board members said they would prefer to keep police officers out of schools altogether.
Some new language has been added to the revised memorandum, clarifying under what circumstances administrators should contact police. Some of the tangible examples provided noted active shooter situations, a gun or other weapon found on campus or a response to a sexual assault.
The new memorandum also instructs schools to call police dispatch in order to make sure all calls are recorded effectively. It also details that students who are interviewed by police have a right to contact their parents via their own cell phones.
Once Superintendent Vincent Matthews and Police Chief Bill Scott sign off on the new contract, the school board would have to vote to activate it.
Not everyone is convinced of the new outline of rules, and some simply want resource officers and police removed from the schools altogether.
An incident last year involving a firearm discharge that eventually led to the arrest of three juveniles and only one being charged at Balboa High School sparked outrage over police procedures with youth and triggered a public hearing. Both the school and police came under fire for handcuffing the students and walking them through campus, visible to everyone present in the school.
Roberto Pena, the father of one of the students involved in that debacle last year, accused the police of violating the then-current memorandum by failing to inform the students’ parents of the arrests in a timely manner.
Although the term “timely manner” can be interpreted differently.
Pena also claimed the police had violated the students’ rights to privacy when they escorted them through the school grounds. Pena added that the school’s principal also failed to properly notify him of his son’s arrest as well.
Kevin Boggess, political director for Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth said, “In a lot of ways we feel the [memorandum of understanding] process has run its course and is not helping to address a lot of the issues we see in the district around safety and things that promote restorative practices in schools.”
Boggess feels the memorandum is pointless since there is “no one to hold the school district or the police department accountable when [the contract] gets broken.”
He also thinks police should work with schools to address student trauma after police interactions occur. He cited the firearm discharge and arrest incident.
“During the community process to repair the harm done [at Balboa High School], the police department was not present to take part in that healing. We need to think of alternatives…to the SRO program to promote safety in schools,” Boggess said.
While Commissioner Alison Collins thinks that the district’s schools currently aren’t “safe schools in the first place” and also said that, “we see students potentially acting out or bringing weapons to school to protect themselves.”
Collins thinks involving police isn’t the solution by saying, “I would like for us as a district to be moving away from having police in schools at all.”
Kevin Truitt, the school district’s Chief of Student, Family and Community Support, had actually pointed out that student arrests, citations, and simple detainments are on the decline, with 28 incidents reported in the 2018-2019 school year.
This served as a far cry from 2010-2011 school year where there were 195 arrests.
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Still, critics still argued that black and Hispanic students faced the most interactions and pointed out that a couple of elementary students were also hemmed up this year.
Captain Yulanda Williams, who heads the SRO program, defended the program by saying that resource officers “take lead from school staff and administrators” when it comes to responding to student incidents.
She added that officers are trained in de-escalation techniques and trained to “handle young people dealing with mental health issues.”
In an effort to put to rest to the notion that the cops were there to simply give kids a criminal record, Captain Williams stated, “We are not there to criminalize young people, we are there to provide them with resources. Not only do we provide it to young persons in the school system but we help to ensure wrap around services are available to the complete family unit. SROs are not in school for disciplinary reasons.”
Commissioner Gabriela Lopez made it clear that she doesn’t want cops arresting kids, even when the kids are breaking the law and becoming combative. She went as far as to criticize police involvement in schoolyard fights between students.
In another incident that took place in January, police were called on a fifth-grade student for “absconding,” meaning school leaders “were afraid of this kid leaving,” she said.
Well, that’s not a fair definition of “absconding” from Lopez, and others simply call the act “truancy”; they’re semantically related and both mean someone is absent without permission. The difference being that absconding requires the element of sneaking out of the school.
Lopez simply wants police out of the school.
“So we are calling police on a 10-year old. These are things happening currently, this school year.” She later spoke with a local newspaper saying that she won’t support “any [memorandum of understanding] connecting and encouraging police in schools.”
The commissioner made the pretentious claim that cops shouldn’t be around kids because they’re nether trained nor equipped to deal with them.
“I want us to listen to the public’s demands to focus on restorative practices…and raise the level of protections for students without involving people who aren’t trained to work with kids.”