Detroit school board adds monitoring panel after 'no police in schools' rally

June 17, 2020, 8:35 AM

Update: A review panel will be set up to recommend steps for improving safety in Detroit public schools, board members decided. They'll also create an oversight committee to monitor the district police department, Chalkbeat reports.

Board President Iris Taylor made the announcement during a school board meeting Tuesday night.

Tuesday article:

Armed officers assigned to Detroit public schools create more harm than safety, in the view of an education advocacy group that led a protest Monday outside the district's Fisher Building offices.

Eleanore Catolico and Koby Levin report at Chalkbeat Detroit on the effort and its citywide voices:

[The group] recently launched a campaign for the district to divest in school police. On Monday, dozens of protesters gathered ... to call for a plan to shift funding from the school police force to guidance counselors, restorative justice programs, and a committee that would create a districtwide “safety plan.”

The district has its own police department, setting it apart from school districts that contract with local police departments for security services. It’s not clear how much the district spends on the department. Budget documents indicate it spent about $14 million on “security services” during the 2018-19 academic year, a broad category that includes building alarm systems.

Protesters said the district should form a committee with community members to develop a safe plan for dismantling the district police department. They also called for the district to release data on spending and misconduct of district police, arguing that police officers in schools don’t support student learning.

Protest participants Monday. "We are building power to make systemic change and win educational justice," organizers say.
(Photo: Facebook/Amanda Alexander)

Highlights of the proposals are in a slide below this post.

Supporters include Toriè J. Anderson, a master English teacher since 2015 at Davis Aerospace High School, who posts that instead of district police cars, "I see more laptops, more In-school social workers, better pay for teachers, art programs, music programs. My question is: If we have DPD. do we really need a DPSCD police force?" 

Another educator, Heidi West of Western International Academy, tells the local news site:

"I've seen several incidents where DPSCD police handcuffed and arrested students over minor incidents. At the same time, we only had one guidance counselor."

The organizing collective, named 482Forward, posts that it's "committed to ensuring that all Detroit children have access to an excellent education, regardless of their race or socioeconomic status. Together, we are building power to make systemic change and win educational justice for our communities." 

Besides calling for an immediate 50-percent reallocation of the Detroit Community School District police budget, the group focuses on equity in state aid, school repairs, teacher recruitment, online instruction and Covid safety.  

(Graphic: Instagram/482Forward)

The current hot button amid nationwide racial justice discussions is whether a dedicated police department is the best way to serve Detroit pupils and staff. A $5.6-million command center opened nine years ago.

A social media post Monday says: 

DPSCD spent over $15 million last year on policing, surveilling and criminalizing Detroit students. As of 2015, DPSCD was spending less than $1 million/year on social workers.

We believe that community-based safety strategies, more social workers of color from our neighborhoods, and training for all adults and youth in proven safety strategies is what will keep our schools safe and healthy.

Goals include getting the seven-member board to invest at least half of the DPSCD Police and security budget "in trauma-informed care by June 30" and to "commit to fully defunding the DPSCD Police Department by June 2021." (Backers can join the call here.)

District representative Chrystal Wilson tells Chalbeat that having a district police force lets officers build rapport with students. 

"The district is always willing to discuss how officers can strengthen their relationship with students and the greater community,” Wilson said. “However, if the district did not have its own department and safety issues surfaced that required officers at a school, then the district would need to rely on traditional officers to address matters in schools without the benefit of previous relationships with students, faculty and school leaders."

"Horrific incidents can happen between outside police and students."

(Slide: Instagram/482Forward)

Read more:  Chalkbeat Detroit

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