Reclaim School Safety and an Equity Promise

Dear School Board,

This is not a time to show our children that we fear them or their peers by continuing to have their halls walked and enforced by an SRO.  Now is the time to show them we see the trauma they are faced with outside of school walls and we will work harder inside our schools to keep trauma out and invest in them, with them, for them and their future.  

In response to yet another murder of a black person by police and in solidarity with the Minneapolis School District we demand an end to our agreement with the Portland Police Department and to invest in two social workers who are specifically skilled and qualified to work with our BIPOC students, particularly black students and students of new immigrant families for whom English is not their first language.

The Portland Public School has an obligation and a promise to meet the educational needs of our children.  The Portland Police Department has an obligation to meet the public safety needs of our community.  This mandate includes our public schools.  All decisions should support strategies that close equity gaps, not widen them.  We have lived without SROs in our schools in the past.  We live without them in the majority of Portland schools each day.  A strong and vital partnership between Portland Public Schools and Portland Police Department is a key part of delivering upon Portland’s Promise. We do not need them within the schools to feel safe, when the department is so close and responsive to our district as a whole.

Please note this is a budget neutral plea with the potential of cost savings.  A call for action, change and a future investment in changing the way we treat, see and empower our students within their school walls.


Parents and Students of Portland Public Schools

Some other voices and resources:

The voice of PHS alum Abdul Ali:

"We all know this isn’t the first killing of a black man by a police officer. We’ve all seen the murder videos & protests just to see the officers get charged, charges dropped, and walk away. Black & brown people have trauma they live in, because of the daily terror they’re in. It’s not anger you see, it’s fear. We need to shift our views and perspectives, and look at it from a young black students view and perspective. Being taught slavery, Jim Crow, redlining into public housing, and now watching as mass incarceration & police killings are used to justify that we're still the problems here. As teachers, I am asking you to look back at our history and see why this is happening today. Why the system is terrorizing black and brown people from the areas they live, to the jobs they have, to the generational trauma caused by our racial caste system. This isn’t by accident, and we know you weren’t the ones that created it. But we are responsible for fixing it. We live in two different worlds. “The tale of the two cities.” Black people have to try 10x as hard to get anywhere in life, and while doing that, live with the fear of being killed. When will we take action? For all the white teachers, what if your child had the same terror and fear as that black child, wouldn’t you want to keep their mental health sane? Has anyone asked us about our mental health at all? We’re tired of saying it and explaining it. We can all see it in front of us, there’s nothing left to be said. Let’s set an example to the rest of the country, and show how we can lead with putting our most vulnerable children first. Let’s invest in social workers, and change the militarization of our schools. Let’s keep our communities safe."

From the Study "they're just, like there" Student Experiences with School Resource Officer's
by Danielle Layton, MSW (University of Maine)
"National research finds that SROs being present in schools is negatively associated with students’ feelings of safety in school (Tillyer, Fisher, & Wilcox, 2010; Theriot & Cuellar, 2016). Additionally, students who attend schools where security personnel are present have weaker relationships with their teachers (Fisher, Gardella, & Tanner-Smith, 2019). Race is a critical factor not only in which students are policed at school, but also in who perceives school to be safer with SROs present (Lacoe, 2015; Morris et al, 2018). The misgivings that students of color have about their safety with police embedded in their schools are not unfounded: Black students are three times more likely than White students to be arrested at school, though in some states they are eight times as likely to be arrested as their White peers, and for girls these racial disparities are even more pronounced (Whitaker et al, 2018).

A 2019 study of students in Maine found that students experience SROs with a mixture of reassurance, skepticism, and intimidation (Layton, 2019). Knowing that students are anxious about the reality of school shootings, but not convinced that one or two police officers can prevent it happening to them, schools might look to other ways of promoting safety by prioritizing positive school climate, and other ways of taking an active stance to end school shootings. The complexity of Maine students' experiences with SROs indicates the need for holistic school safety strategies that do not rely on law enforcement which students find intimidating."

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