States' School Board to Vote on Ending Contract With Police Over Failure to 'See Humanity in Our Students'
(Common Dreams) - The school district cannot "claim to fight institutional racism" while aligned with the police department, said a board member.
The Minneapolis public school board will vote Tuesday evening on a resolution to end its contract with the city's police department following the police killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man.
School board member Josh Pauly drafted the resolution last week after an eight-minute video showing now-former police officer Derek Chauvin pressing his knee into Floyd's neck prompted international protests, including demonstrations in Minneapolis where police have shot rubber bullets, tear gas, and pepper spray at protesters and journalists.
The school district "cannot align itself with [the Minneapolis police department] and claim to fight institutional racism," and "cannot partner with organizations that do not see the humanity in our students," Pauly said last week.
"It's just gotten to the point where I don't think in good conscience I can give another dime to the Minneapolis Police Department," school board chair Kim Ellison told Minnesota Public Radio last week. "It's an agency that's not correcting its mistakes."
The Minneapolis Police Department provides the school district with "school resource officers," joining about 70% of U.S. public secondary schools and 30% of elementary schools that employ armed law enforcement officers, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
A Department of Defense program has also provided military-grade weapons and equipment to at least 22 school districts in eight states, Education Week reported in 2014.
Harsh disciplinary actions in schools such as suspension and expulsion have increased dramatically since the 1980s, along with the rise of police presence in schools.
As the Pacific Standard reported last year, "disciplinary proceedings initiated by [school resource officers], as with the justice system outside of schools, are implemented more harshly and more frequently with students of color. Not only are black, Latino, and low-income students punished at much higher rates than their whiter and wealthier peers, but they're also more likely to be arrested."
Under Pauly's resolution, the Minneapolis schools would be required to develop other methods to keep students safe.
The Minneapolis Federation of Teachers supports the proposal and said last week that ending the district's contract with the police would allow the district to "spend its money on people who can meet the needs of our students, including providers of mental health supports and education support professionals."
"The officers of the Minneapolis Police Department have demonstrated they do not share that value with the educators, families, or students of Minneapolis," union leaders said in a statement last Friday.
SEIU Local 284, which represents 500 custodial and food service employees in Minneapolis schools, also expressed support.
"SEIU members in Minneapolis and across our state believe in making a future where all families—no matter our race, zip code, job or wealth—have public schools where our students feel safe and have the resources they need to thrive," said SEIU Local 284 executive director Kelly Gibbons. "But in Minneapolis it has long been clear that Black families aren't able to feel safe from the people who are supposed to serve and protect us. The killing of George Floyd last week has made clear for anyone who had any doubts that our system is broken and needs to be changed. A positive first step to enacting change in our public schools would be for the Minneapolis Public Schools to cut ties with the Minneapolis Police Department."
Pauly told The Guardian that school boards in New York, North Carolina, Arizona, and other states have reached out to him in recent days for guidance on drafting their own resolutions to cut ties with local law enforcement agencies. Denver school board member Tay Anderson said Sunday he had called on the his school district to cut ties with the Denver police.
"I'm tired of the vigils. I'm tired of the statements. I'm tired of the hashtags," Anderson told Chalkbeat. "Our black children in DPS need to know that they matter... We have to follow up with actions."
The Minneapolis school board will vote on Pauly's resolution at 5:00pm Central time on Tuesday.