Demonstrations across the U.S. over the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and so many others who have died at the hands of police brutality have further exposed our deeply racist and oppressive police system. The weight of this moment, created by a tidal wave of organizing and mobilization, has forced public school leaders to reevaluate the presence of police in public schools.
The issue around school policing has a disproportionate effect on students of color. Our students and young people cannot feel safe or effectively learn if they are forced to interact with a system of policing that views them as a threat. Black and Latino students are more likely to have police officers in their schools, increasing the likelihood of arrest. Students, organizers, advocates and community leaders across the Opportunity to Learn Network have a common message: Police do not belong in schools.
Schott grantee partner, the Alliance for Quality Education, has been at the frontlines of the fight for Police Free Schools for several years. Their organizing and advocacy efforts are aimed at ensuring a high quality public education for all students in New York State. AQE has most recently called on New York City Mayor de Blasio and New York State governor Cuomo to immediately remove police from New York City’s schools, as well as cut $1 billion from the NYPD budget to invest in education and youth services, as a first step in community reparation. As Maria Bautista, AQE’s described in an interview with Spectrum New York News, "We're talking about schools that are predominantly poor. So this conversation about police-free schools is happening in school districts that are being racially profiled."
Additionally, on June 16, the contract between the police and the Rochester City Schools district was ended, removing police officers from RCSD schools. AQE and its allies worked to secure the city council vote to defund RCSD’s school-resource officer program. Rochester is the first city in New York to secure this victory! As an AQE press release notes, however, the struggle is far from over:
The removal of police from Rochester’s schools is a victory, but it is a victory that cannot stand on its own. Rochester City School District must maintain and protect the programs and services that are needed to make police-free schools possible, including the restorative justice program, student help zones and the ROC restorative team. It must actively support students by investing in proven-to-work programs, social workers and guidance counselors.
The Alliance for Educational Justice (AEJ), an alliance of Black and oppressed youth, has also been at the forefront of the movement for Police Free Schools. They recently hosted a virtual conversation highlighting and uplifting the work of student leaders advocating for the removal of police officers from Wake and Durham County schools in North Carolina.
It is time to reclaim our communities and our schools from abusive policing.