Remove Eugene Police from 4J School District campuses Eugene, Oregon
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I am a student/parent/alumni/concerned community member of the 4J school district demanding the removal of Eugene Police Department members from all 4J schools. Our campus communities are not made safer by their presence and I have a personal stake in stipulating equitable access to education for all marginalized students in the Eugene-Springfield area. I am determined to draw your attention to three central reasons for which the EPD has no place in our schools. In light of the protests now being held internationally to protest police brutality, I must stand for justice.
Eugene Police make schools unsafe for BIPOC, mentally ill, low income, neuro-diverse students, students with disabilities and LGBTQ+ students.
It is a proven fact that police officers are far more likely to use excessive and disproportionate force against people from marginalized communities, and this trend is extremely visible in our community. In 2015, veteran Brian Babb was killed by the Eugene Police in his front yard after requesting support for a mental health crisis. In 2019, Stacy Kenny, a mentally ill, transgender person, was shot multiple times in her own vehicle by the Eugene Police after being stopped for a minor traffic infraction, and then posthumously misgendered by police and news sources. In 2019, an unarmed, low-income person named Eliborio Rodrigues was shot and killed by the Eugene Police while collecting cans and bottles to pay his bills. In 2018, an unarmed UO student of color named Sterling Baraquoi had guns drawn on them by UOPD after being profiled during a search for a construction site break-in. These wrongful deaths and instances of discrimination are only scratching the surface of a deeply ingrained history of police violence in this community.
The most recent investigative audit of Eugene Police activity found that one in four people ticketed or arrested for minor crimes in 2016 were unhoused or lacked permanent address. Additionally, one in three cases were aimed at those who had lacked a place to live within the last three years. As LGBTQ+, BIPOC, and mentally ill people are disproportionately likely to become unhoused, the EPD has actively criminalized minor offenses that these groups are most vulnerable to engaging in, by virtue of wanting to stay alive. Eugene Police’s constant criminalization of unhoused members of our community, despite having non-reenforcement based resources such as White Bird at their disposal 24/7, speaks to the true role of police in this community and everywhere. With such a high proportion of unhoused students in 4J classrooms, how can the district claim to support their education while colluding with those whose policy and day-to-day actions work against them?
Eugene Police have a strong and undeniable history of abusing their power.
In 2013, Stefan Nicholas Zeltvay of the EPD, who had been stationed at South Eugene High School as a resource officer for ten years, was convicted of sexually harassing three female coworkers at the Eugene Police Department. Subsequent investigation yielded 12 to 15 leads from female South students, who reported, among other things, avoiding Zeltvay at all costs because of his reputation. A subsequent lawsuit contended that Eugene Police Department supervisors knew that a now-former officer was a “dangerous sexual predator” but failed to do anything about it for years, which allowed his aggressive behavior toward women to continue until the department finally turned its investigative firepower on him in 2012. The EPD thus was found to have reasonable suspicion that one of their officers was, as aforementioned, a dangerous predator, and allowed him to remain in 4J schools, amongst students, for at least a decade.
In July of 2004, Robert Magana, a member of the Eugene Police, was sentenced to 94 years in prison for abusing 15 women from 1997 to 2003. In subsequent investigations, officer Ryan Wolgamott, South Eugene High School’s current resource officer, mentioned that he had arrested a woman in December 2002. According to the investigative report, she told him, "Officer Magana raped me." She then told Wolgamott that she reported the same thing to another officer and nothing came of it. Wolgamott told investigators the woman, a “mentally ill drug addict", didn't appear credible. He said he told his field training officer about her statement, but it was never documented or investigated. Officer Wolgamott actively denied a rape allegation against one of his peers, citing the victim’s status as drug-addicted and unhoused as a reason to deem her less credible. How can I trust him to protect marginalized students of all situations and backgrounds in the event of their coming forward when this is a practice he espouses?
Resource officers have been proven to harm more than they help.
Study upon study has demonstrated that the presence of a school resource officer does little more than comfort those who enjoy the status quo and do not experience discrimination at school. Women, African-American students, neuro-diverse students, students with disabilities and students who have experienced various forms of school violence, such as fights, arguments, bullying, or religious teasing, tend to report feeling less safe in schools, even though SROs are present. Student arrests and court referrals of students of color tend to increase, and schools with more students of color have a more militarized police presence, bolstering the school to prison pipeline. Additionally, students report feeling more uncomfortable making a report of harassment and bullying with police presence. According to the majority of data, schools with armed police officers are more likely to see adverse effects than increased safety over long periods of time. By contrast, schools that invest in social workers and conflict de-escalation teams have better student outcomes and operate with demonstrably more equity.
Given these three points, and with the firmly-held belief that education should be equitably accessible and without obstacle, I stipulate:
4J must divest from the Eugene Police Department, following in the footsteps of many communities in the US
4J must carry out an investigation of student safety programming, utilizing local conflict de-escalation resources and complying with ODE student outcome guidelines, to replace EPD presence
4J must issue a statement of purpose addressing the history of abuse and violence against marginalized groups handed down by the EPD systemically, whom they have consistently supported and included in the lives of their students
I demand that we follow in the footsteps of leading educators today, and make a change now.
*This petition was researched and written by current 4J students and recent 4J graduates. We encourage the community to share and amplify it if you agree with the statements above*
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