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Two East Bay School Districts Consider Pulling Armed Cops From Campuses

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Oakland and West Contra Costa school districts are considering pulling armed school resource officers from campuses. Though there have been steady calls by organizations, teachers and parents to do so for some time, the demand for officers’ removal has grown substantially since the death of George Floyd.

EdSource reported Wednesday that two Oakland Unified board members, Roseann Torres and Shanthi Gonzales, have proposed a resolution to dissolve the school district’s police department. A full board vote could occur in a special meeting next week or on June 24. 

The West Contra Costa School Board will hear a proposal Wednesday presented by the teachers’ union that would end contracts with police departments that assign officers to campus duty. 

The Black Organizing Project has been long pushing for removal of campus officers. The Oakland-based organization held a caravan rally Friday to emphasize the demand. Keith Brown, the Oakland Education Association teachers’ union president, said:

“We call on the superintendent and board to provide courageous leadership in the wake of the murder of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police, and we urge them to reject the legacy of anti-blackness that is inherent in school policing and the school-to-prison pipeline.”

Though some officers have successfully forged positive relationships with students and prevented violence and bullying on campus, there are many instances of police brutality against school kids, some resulting in major injury or death – all ending in a traumatic experience that leave children distrusting of law enforcement. 

Advocates call on Oakland Unified School District superintendent to eliminate armed school resource officers from campuses. Photo courtesy of the Black Organizing Project.

An 11-year-old girl was slammed into a wall and then wrestled on the ground by a police officer as she cried and begged the officer to get off of her.

The girl, who is black, was waiting for her mother to pick her up from Mesa View Middle School in New Mexico where she attended the sixth grade. The grown man with a gun was a school resource officer who had followed the child around and picked at her for various petty things. 

He accused her of taking too many milk cartons from the cafeteria earlier. He threatened her with jail for picking at a taped paper sign. When she opened a door and it brushed against the school principal, the officer accused her of assault and manhandled her despite the principal repeatedly asking him to stop.

Zachary Christensen resigned from the Farmington Police Department after body camera footage surfaced of the August 27, 2019 incident. He was not criminally charged for his actions.

 

Another school resource officer was caught on cellphone video threatening to shoot kids and grabbing at her gun holster after breaking up a fight between students on the North Miami Senior High School campus. Officer Lorvia Paul was placed on administrative leave pending an investigation for the January 31 incident.

Another school resource officer working at Cross Creek School in Pompano Beach, Florida was eventually arrested and charged with a felony child abuse for grabbing a 15-year-old by the neck and slamming her down onto the floor. Cross Creek is a school for children with emotional and behavioral disabilities. The incident involving former Broward County Deputy Willard Miller was discovered accidentally more than a month after the September 2019 assault.

In Camden, Arkansas, a school resource officer was caught on video lifting a high school student off the ground while he had the teen in a chokehold. Jake Perry had worked as a school resource officer for less than a month before the Feb. 10, 2020 assault and was fired as a result of the investigation.

Photo credit: Pxfuel

There are unfortunately several more examples of school resource officers using excessive force on students they are assigned to protect at campuses across the country. One student was beaten with a baton, another punched in the face for cutting in line and one boy was put in a coma after a brain injury from being tased. Derek Lopez, 14, was shot and killed by the school resource officer after he punched another student and ran away.

These instances will inevitably be recalled as Oakland and West Contra Costa debate whether to remove officers from campuses. Police departments have and will push back but what they have failed so far to do is guarantee they can keep children safe from the very people tasked with protecting them.     

 

  

 

 

 

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Nik Wojcik - East Bay Editor

Nik Wojcik - East Bay Editor

Journalist, editor, student, single mom to a pack of wolves, foodie, music lover, resident smart ass, and champion of vulgarity and human kindness.

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