Open letter to the Greenfield City Council regarding the matching of grant funds going to School Resource Officers
Open letter to the Greenfield City Council regarding the matching of grant funds going to School Resource Officers
Dear Members of the Greenfield City Council,

We are writing to you as representative residents of Greenfield to express our concern with the proposed CalVIP Grant. As of October 22nd, we were notified that you will be voting on accepting $461,000 that will fund Sun Street Center’s Youth Diversion Program and in which the City of Greenfield will be matching funds for 1.5 FTE School Resource Officers (SROs) this Tuesday, October 27th. We support the investment into Sun Street Center’s Youth Diversion Program, but we fundamentally disagree with the proposed funding of SROs in Greenfield schools as it goes against any sort of effort to divert youth from incarceration. We urge you to divest from the use of School Resource Officers and reimagine school safety as more than police presence. Here are our reasons why:

1) SROs do not effectively improve school safety, discipline, or climate.

-SROs do not improve school safety or reduce school violence. There is no clear evidence that the use of SROs or security guards in schools effectively prevents school violence. A robust review of 40 years of evaluations of school policing has showed no positive impact on school safety outcomes.
-Our youth feel less safe, and more fearful, at schools with SROs. Research shows that school security measures, including SROs, generally increases students’ fear and negatively impacts students’ perceptions of safety.
-The presence of SROs often leads to more expulsions and suspensions, particularly for Black and Brown students. Studies show that schools with SROs also rely more heavily on exclusionary discipline. Schools with high security, including police presence, have significantly more suspensions, and a greater Black-white disparity in suspensions.
-Schools with SROs criminalize and arrest youth for minor misbehavior. When SROs or security are present in schools, trivial forms of student misconduct are more likely to result in arrest and court referral. Most secondary school administrators say their SROs are involved in school discipline, even in situations where no crime was committed.

2) Schools with SROs criminalize and arrest youth for minor misbehavior and do not create healthy learning environments, as evidenced by the disproportionate suspension rates in Greenfield High School.

-In the last three school years, Greenfield High School (GHS) saw 1,542 students suspended.
-In the 2018-19 school year, GHS had 356 willful defiance suspensions; Gonzales, Soledad, and King City High Schools only had 23 willful defiance suspensions combined.
-In the 2018-2019 school year, GHS made up 46.6% of all Monterey County schools’ willful defiance suspensions.
-During regular in-school learning, GHS already has two private security officers and a campus supervisor.
-Monterey County, per capita, has one the highest percentages of undocumented residents in California. Having an officer on school campuses or in virtual learning spaces would create fear and stress for undocumented students who’s futures could be disrupted due to early contact with the criminal justice system.

3) It is not financially sound to fund SROs during a global pandemic where there is no in-person instruction.

-SROs are not needed during this time, given there is not likely to be in-person classes anytime soon. However, youth, now more than ever, need counselors, social workers, and supports to help them during this stressful time. As we know, many extracurricular activities such as sports, band, etc. have been cancelled. It is money well spent to have counselors check in on students and their well-being, and develop trusting relationships, work on college applications, and other important student issues.
-Some proponents of SROs have argued that SROs help with de-escalation on campuses, work on truancy issues, amongst other things. Here is what we know: law enforcement is not equipped with handling underlying reasons for truancy, conflict resolution, or mental health crises. That should be left to professionals who are already trained and specialize in such issues.
-In addition, the City of Greenfield has consistently justified the lack of funding for youth supports with claims of financial strain. The City of Greenfield’s website states "...the City has not been able to allocate any financial resources to offer recreation programming to Greenfield youth. Most young people continue to complain that ‘there is nothing to do’ in Greenfield. This absence of healthy accessible and available recreational programing in Greenfield has substantially contributed to so many young people turning to local gangs to participate in typical group activities.” It is incredibly frustrating to see the Council attempting to move forward with allocating nearly half a million dollars to fund SROs and not other, more effective resources and services that promote youth well-being during the pandemic.

4) Schools throughout Monterey County have already eliminated funding for SROs.

-Soledad Unified School District, Salinas Union High School District, Monterey Peninsula Unified School District, Alisal Union Elementary School District, Salinas Elementary School District, and others have already eliminated SROs after hearing from members of the community, and especially those impacted by police on school grounds.

Again, we are asking that the Greenfield City Council not invest funds into School Resource Officers and instead invest funds into already existing local organizations and programming to support our youth, such as NAMI, Monterey County Behavioral Health, Pro-Youth, the Greenfield Community Science Workshop, ETS, Girls Inc., FFA, the Epicenter of Monterey County, existing school clubs, food pantry, mental health counselors and expanded Sun Street’s services, etc. We hope you will stand with the community and utilize your power to truly invest in the well-being of local students.


Sincerely,
The Community of Greenfield
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