Portland Public Schools Says Goodbye to Police in Schools!
Updated: Jun 5, 2020
UPDATE: PORTLAND PUBLIC SCHOOLS CANCELS ITS CONTRACT WITH PORTLAND POLICE BUREAU! NO MORE SCHOOL RESOURCE OFFICERS AT PPS!
During a Thursday afternoon press conference, Mayer Wheeler said that both he and Superintendent Guerrero came to the same decision to eliminate SROs independently.
“The community wants this. We’re listening, and we’re doing it,” Wheeler said.
Below is a blog post from December 2018 describing the tension caused by SRO's in PPS. Read to find out more about the struggle to remove police from schools over the past several years. It has been a hard fought battle by champions who have been given little credit for all their hard work. It's too bad that the travesty of George Floyd being murdered in brad daylight by police officers is the catalyst that caused the change. Kudos to Sheila Warren at Portland Parent Union, Susan Anglada Bartley, Resolutions Northwest, Parents Across America, Dignity in Schools Campaign, and many other grassroots organizations that never gave up the fight.
Counselors NOT Cops
From December, 2018:
Last week Oakland University in Michigan announced they will arm their students and faculty with hockey pucks in case of a shooting on campus. Can Portland Public schools be considering an even worse decision?
"The university's AAUP chapter has already bought 2,500 hockey pucks, the first 800 of which have been distributed to faculty and the rest to students. They cost 94 cents each, said a university spokesman, who added that the student government ordered another 1,000 pucks."
Let's hope it doesn't come to an equally ill-conceived idea in Portland Pubic Schools (PPS) where the board will be considering a proposal to pay the salaries of Security Resource Officers (SROs) out of the PPS budget. SROs are members of the Portland Police Department and currently collect a salary from their employer -- not from PPS.
During the summer, Portland Parent Union presented a conference on Education Is a Civil Right with Counselors Not Cops emerging as a principle theme. The event was also supported by Dignity in Schools and the Oregon chapter of Parents Across America. Author Susan Anglada Bartley expressed A Different Vision: A Revolution Against Racism in Public Education as espoused in her book by that title.
At one point during the all day event, parents and teachers had the unique opportunity to question an SRO in a healing circle. The occasion was extraordinary because very seldom do parents and educators have the opportunity to address a police officer directly directly
in a peaceful setting.
The officers was verbose in his responses which initially sounded reasonable and reassuring, but as the conversation continued seemed more like a diatribe than a real attempt to listen to parents' concerns. (I'm going to editorialize here with no intention of minimizing the many good points discussed.) It seemed that parents and teachers were most concerned about resolving two major points of contention.
They asked that SROs not wear all their weaponized regalia -- which is substantial -- at school. They said the guns and other scary devices frightened children and contributed to a climate of fear at the school.
They asked that SROs join them in fighting for more counselors than cops at each individual school.
The officer said that he could not support either request. He said first and foremost he was a police officer and if an emergency arose outside of school, he would have to be prepared to leave at a moments notice fully armed. He said that he couldn't advocate for more counselors than cops at school either. When pressed about which he would rather have at his own children's school, his answer was not as resolute, but still he stood his ground. He preferred more cops.
The circle members continued to try to reason with the officer for well over the time allotted for his presentation with no success. In closing the circle, moderator, Sheila Warren, asked for guidance for the officer and that we pray for him.
At a later date I asked Senator Lew Frederick, who had been present at that conference earlier in the day but left before the SRO circle, why it was so difficult for parents to be heard on this very important issue? He responded by giving me a short history lesson. (This is something I love about Lew -- he is great at putting things in context, plus he has a knack for storytelling.) Here is my brief, ineloquent recap of his answer. He said that in the beginning when security officers were paid by school districts, the schools could decide where and how SROs would be deployed, how they would dress, and how they would engage with students. They were employed by the school district. When austerity funding meant security cuts, the Portland Police Department stepped in to fill the role. Since the PPD now paid the salaries of the security force, they called the shots. To a greater extent, the PPD now decided how SROs would be deployed, how they would dress, and how they would engage with students. It was also made clear that first and foremost SROs were police officers, not school security personnel.
Since that summer conference there has been much discussion and agitation around school security. Now it seems that the PPD no longer has funding to pay for SROs in Portland Public Schools. It is asking PPS, that massively cut proven restorative justice programs this year for lack of funding, pick up at least part of the tab for SRO salaries. Many parents are saying NO!
FUN FACT #1
The average annual salary
of a guidance counselor
in Portand Public schools
FUN FACT #2
The average annual salary
of a security Resource officer (SRO)
A false sense of urgency has been created around the matter that will be addressed at Tuesday's school board meeting. Now may be the time to excuse PPD from their school duties in favor of school security and social justice initiatives . Parents, educators, and community members are welcome to make their voices heard. Even hockey pucks may be a better solution than spending education dollars for more police in Portland Public Schools.
Portland Public Schools
District Board Meeting
Dec. 11, 2018
Starts at 6:00 PM
Blanchard Education Service Center
501 N. Dixon St.
Portland , Oregon 97227
The proposed agreement can be viewed here:
Comments and questions may be emailed to the Board at SchoolBoard@pps.net or sent via regular mail to School Board, P.O. Box 3107, Portland, OR, 97208. If you would like to provide public comment before the Board, please see below. You may phone in your request to address the Board (503-916-3906), or email your request to the Board Clerk: firstname.lastname@example.org
At the November 27th meeting of district board, chair Rita More asked that the Portland Police department provide certain data that would help PPS in making an informed decision. PPD said it would be difficult to produce the data. OUTRAGEOUS! Million dollar deals should not be made because it might be difficult for one party to produce some facts. While we hold children accountable for practically every key stroke of their data driven lives, we won't hold the PPD to the same standard? Why collect all that data if we can't access it to make important decisions?
While the data below may not be the Portland specific data chair Moore had in mind, it may give parents some much needed information as to how PPS (and the nation) came to be in this hot mess.
"Days after the Columbine High School shooting in 1999, President Clinton cited the first round of COPS grants as a response that would allow schools and police to form partnerships focused on “school crime, drug use, and discipline problems.” In 1998 and 1999, “COPS awarded 275 jurisdictions more than $30 million for law enforcement to partner with school entities to address crime and disorder in and around schools.
In a nod to the educational mission of schools, lawmakers also asserted that school police would use tactics other than arrests and use of force. Senator Campbell stated that police in schools “would develop or expand community justice initiatives” and “train students in conflict resolution,” a role Senator Lincoln Chafee, a co-sponsor, described as the “most important” objective of school resource officers.
Members of the House similarly emphasized restorative justice goals and the prevention of police and court involvement. However, as with earlier iterations, the promise of positive support services eased the way for the expansion of policing powers, but the services never materialized.
Instead, police, who were neither trained nor certified in counseling or social work, carried on with traditional policing models, addressing perceived rowdiness and disorder through arrests and surveillance of schoolchildren. "
We got side-tracked after the first mass shooting. It's time to get back on track with common sense gun laws and less punitive programs that directly affect and harm children at school.
According to different agencies, the duties of the SRO can be described in a number of ways. Regardless of the responsibilities, the SRO is an expert in one thing -- being a police officer. Other duties, in most cases, would be better allocated to relevant experts.
"...we first need to acknowledge something before delving into this discussion: a classroom is just about the safest place a kid can be in America."
"The criminologist James Alan Fox points out that since 1990, there have been 22 shootings at schools in which two or more people were shot, or well less than one incident per year. That’s less than one incident per year out of 100,000 public schools and 33,000 private schools. This means that the average elementary, middle, or high school can expect to see a mass shooting about once every 150,000 years."
“Bullies in Blue: Origins and Consequences of School Policing,” explores the beginnings of school policing in the United States and sheds light on the negative consequences of the increasing role of police and links it to both the drivers of punitive criminal justice policies and mass incarceration nationwide. The report traces a line back to the struggle to end Jim Crow segregation during the civil rights movement, and challenges assumptions that the function of police in schools is to protect children. It posits that police are police, and in schools they will act as police, and in those actions bring the criminal justice system into our schools and criminalizing our kids."
"Portland Public School students rallied at district headquarters Tuesday afternoon against the presence of resource officers in their schools.
The group, led by the Portland Student Action Network, gave the following list of demands to school officials:
Immediately stop arresting students in school unless they pose an imminent danger to themselves or others
Immediately disarm SRO’s
Train security and counselors to handle situations which require intervention and/or discipline
End zero tolerance policies in and lower exclusionary discipline rates
Create and follow through on a plan for closing the racial disparities in discipline
Implement restorative practices in every school and develop student mediation programs
Remove School Resource Officers from all of PPS by the beginning of the 2018-19 school year
Limit the amount that police are called into schools to extreme cases
They feel as though school resource officers (or SROs) create "a hostile culture and inhibit students' ability to feel safe." They also believe SRO disproportionately target students of color and "uphold the school-to-prison pipeline."
What do local news sources say about cops in schools? While the Oregonian has been suspiciously silent on the issue of cops in schools, the free weekly Portland Tribune, a Pamplin publication owned by multi-millionaire Robert Pamplin, has posted several articles on the subject. Some are linked below. Most are opinion pieces with scant evidence to back the paper's position. It's a shame that most Portlanders will view this controversy through the reporting of this one deeply-flawed source. This isn't the first time the conservative leaning Tribune has used the power of it's ill-informed, poorly-sourced press to interfere with decisions made by the Portland Public School board and most likely won't be the last.
This is a response by Guadalupe Guerrero, PPS Superintendent, who should recognize the Portland Tribune for the bully that it is, ignore the mouthpiece of the millionaire class, and do what is best for kids. Robert Pamplin has lots of money. Let him pay for police in schools where parents want them. Otherwise, he could reach down into his deep pockets to fund restorative justice and mentoring programs in schools that would be much more beneficial to students. Just stop listening to millionaires with agendas of their own.
Please feel free to add additional resources in comments below.
All opinions expressed in this post are those of the author.