Police out of San José Unified Schools!

Police out of San José Unified Schools!

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“There have been times where I’ve witnessed campus police harass other students. There was a time where I was late to class, there were other students there who happened to be Latino. The officer decided to yell and threaten those students, but said nothing to me even though we were both late.” -SJUSD student

“One of my friends was involved in a routine traffic stop. Sitting in the back seat, an officer approached his window and shone a flashlight inside. When my friend reached to put down the window, the [SJPD] officer immediately drew his gun and threaten to shoot my friend, who was only 17 years old at the time.” -SJUSD student

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Police brutality against the Black community and other People of Color is an ongoing crisis in the United States, including within our own community. The San José Police Department (SJPD) has a long history of police violence. The anonymous publishing of a private SJPD Facebook page showcases the insidious nature of racist ideologies within the department. It has thereby become clearer than ever that the presence of police officers in schools is incredibly detrimental to both the physical and mental health of our Black students and other students of marginalized identities.

Given this crisis, students, families, teachers, and community members are calling on the San José School District to terminate any and all contracts with the San José Police Department and remove School Resource Officers (SROs) from all district campuses and offices. This applies not only to SROs but also to any law enforcement official, affiliate, contractor, or staff that: 

  • Has the power to arrest, detain, interrogate, question, fine, or ticket students on municipal code or juvenile, criminal, or immigration-related matters and/or has the power to punish youth for violations of probation or parole.
  • Carries any type of weapon, including but not limited to a firearm, baton, taser, rubber bullets, bean bags, mace, pepper/OC spray, and/or carry handcuffs or other forms of restraint. 
  • Reports to, is certified by, or receives training from a police department, including personnel who can report students to a gang database or other police databases.

Additionally, this would include eliminating the position of San José Unified’s “Chief of Police,” a position responsible for managing and training the district’s law enforcement services and police personnel.

The District must also further limit cases in which law enforcement is present in schools by instituting policies that prohibit staff from calling the police for:

  • Disruptive behavior.
  • Fighting that does not involve a deadly weapon or an immediate threat to other students.
  • Perceived drunkenness or intoxication.
  • Possession of controlled substances not intended for distribution.
  • Participation in protests, demonstrations, or other political activities.
  • Any other behavior or activity that does not pose a real and immediate physical threat (unless otherwise required by state law).

In the event that the police are called, or if any law enforcement agent requests to enter school property, policies and procedures must clearly outline that:

  • All law enforcement agents must notify the school before requesting to enter school property.
  • Law enforcement is prohibited from entering for the purpose of fining, ticketing, responding to warrants, or arresting students on school grounds for non-school related incidents.
  • Law Enforcement is prohibited from speaking to, questioning, or interrogating students without mirandizing them and without having a parent or guardian present.
  • School staff will immediately notify parents/guardians when a law enforcement official is, or is expected to, have interaction with a student. 
  • School staff will intervene to prevent law enforcement from approaching, interrogating, or questioning any student before a parent or guardian can be notified.
  • School staff will inform students of their rights and provide them an opportunity to contact legal counsel and/or another trusted adult, selected by the student, prior to any interrogation by the police.
    School staff will protect students’ and parents’ right to record police activities.

Eliminating police presence is a necessary safety measure and an important step in eliminating the School-to-Prison Pipeline, but the work to protect our students does not stop here. We must work to create a safe and equitable educational experience for all of our students. While the district divests in policing and programs that support punitive discipline, SJUSD must commit to and invest in positive approaches to building a safe school climate by:

  • Working with stakeholders to create a school safety plan.
  • Promoting youth and parent leadership, with access and authority given to monitor, evaluate, and advise the district on ongoing efforts toward creating a safe and supportive school culture.
  • Expanding opportunities for individuals and organizations within the community to be present and active in schools.
  • Providing ongoing training and support for all school staff in positive approaches to school climate and discipline, including trauma-informed practices, conflict resolution and peer mediation, de-escalation techniques, restorative and transformative justice practices, and cultural competencies (including understanding and addressing racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, adultism/ageism, and other implicit and explicit biases). Such cultural competency trainings are especially relevant to issues of policing, since further marginalized Black individuals, such as those who are disabled and/or trans, are most likely to be targeted and harmed by police, including on school campuses.
  • Implementing restorative justice practices at all school sites.

Removing police presence from our schools is a concrete, tangible step SJUSD can take to demonstrate its commitment to the safety and empowerment of Black students, as outlined in the Black Lives Matter Resolution adopted by the district. Many other districts in San José, as well as in the larger Bay Area, have already demonstrated such a commitment by ending their police contracts. We want to invest in our schools, promote safe and equitable learning environments, and uplift our Black and Brown students. Thus, we look forward to San José Unified School District’s response, anticipating that the district will agree with the community on the need to protect and support our students by removing police from our schools.