Get PPB Out Of PPS
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In May 2019, the Portland Public School Board voted to pass a $1.6 million fund to place Portland Police Officers in public high schools across the district as “school resource officers,” (SROs). While the fund aims to create positive police-student relationships and prevent crime, in reality, it disproportionately targets students of color, and explicitly and actively feeds the school-to-prison pipeline.
Not only does the implementation of SROs on high school campuses unequally impact students of color, but “according to data from the City Budget Office (CBO), PPB officers [SROs] arrested 28 individuals under 21 years old on campuses during school hours during the 2017-18 fiscal year. Sixteen of those students were Black, eight were white, three were Hispanic or Latino, and one was Asian,” (The Portland Mercury, 2019). In a city where the African-American population is a mere 5.8% (United States Census Bureau), they represent 27% of the state prison population—the seventh highest incarceration rate in the country (The Oregionian, 2019). Arrests made by SRO’s on PPS campuses follow directly in-line with Oregon’s racial prison demographics, clearly illustrating racial biases, prejudices, and explicit racism from SROs.
Police are not necessary in order to provide a safe and secure environment for students—in many cases, they can exacerbate the feeling of insecurity. Having police present in schools further supports and feeds the settler-colonial and white supremacist regime of the United States. The normalization of SROs in schools contributes to the unequal power dynamics between police and students, especially those of color. By having school resource officers, we are inviting violence into these schools. Removing police from schools brings us one step closer to dismantling the racist institution of policing as a whole.
There are several approaches to maintaining schools as safe environments—this is not the only option. Remember that in educational environments, the safety of students should be of utmost importance: who are these SROs really protecting? The use of SROs falls under the umbrella of “peacekeeping” initiatives, which are aimed at security and seek to control and limit violence through monitoring and surveillance. “Peacekeeping initiatives include restrictive and often punitive codes of conduct and many anti-harassment initiatives,” (National Council for the Social Studies, 2011). Peacekeeping practices are also used in institutions such as jails, prisons, and psychiatric hospitals. There is a reason many students describe school as a microcosm of the U.S. prison system.
A more productive alternative to peacekeeping that is considerably more appropriate for schools is peacebuilding, which “transforms the underlying relationship injustices that have led to or exacerbated the harm arising from [a] conflict,” (National Council for the Social Studies, 2011). Peacebuilding practices look like many things, including dialogue circles, collective decision making, and dismantling of underlying institutional practices that contribute to and cause an environment that feeds conflict within school buildings. Many peacebuilding practices are synonymous with the term “restorative justice,” and one thing is certain—the presence of SROs effectively prohibits these restorations from taking place, and creates a threatening environment for all students, specifically Black and brown students.
By reinvesting this $1.6 million allocated to enforcing a strong police presence in PPS schools, we can monetarily fund numerous programs that can benefit low-income students and students of color on a much greater scale. We need to prioritize food/shelter insecurity programs—something that is of great value considering that 1,217 PPS students are homeless. Mental health non-profits and other support systems should be prioritized for first-generation/low income/students of color, as well.
As evident at the protests for #JusticeForGeorgeFloyd, police presence clearly breeds increased cases of police brutality and violence within the very communities that are fighting for racial justice and against oppression. Please generously consider these factors when signing this petition. Your support will greatly impact the roughly 44,000 students within the PPS district.
Bickmore, Kathy. “Keeping, Making, and Building Peace in School.” Social Education, 2011, https://www.socialstudies.org/system/files/publications/articles/se_75011140.pdf
Campuzano, Eder. “Portland Mayor Plans to Set aside $1.6 Million to Fund School Resource Officers.” Oregonlive, 23 May 2019, www.oregonlive.com/education/2019/05/portland-mayor-plans-to-set-aside-16-million-to-fund-school-resource-officers.html
Stenvick, Blair. “Portland Police Arrest Black Students at Disproportionate Rate.” Portland Mercury , Portland Mercury, 6 Mar. 2019, www.portlandmercury.com/blogtown/2019/03/06/26119594/portland-police-arrest-black-students-at-disproportionate-rate
United States Census Bureau https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/portlandcityoregon/AGE295218#qf-headnote-a
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