A Washington school district is cutting ties with local police departments and getting rid of school resource officers over the “threat” they pose to students.
The Edmonds School Board of Directors, which oversees a system of four schools near Seattle, voted unanimously on Tuesday to end contracts with police departments providing school resource officers for three of the schools: Meadowdale, Edmonds-Woodway, and Mountlake Terrace. Law enforcement presence at the fourth school, Lynnwood, will be voted on in August, according to Washington’s My Edmonds News.
“Given the facts of our highly-dangerous national and state systems of policing, supervision and incarceration, by being housed in our high schools — no matter how helpful and beloved they are — police are a real risk to many of our students and they contribute to stress and bad health for hundreds of children,” school board president Deborah Kilgore said.
The vote came after weeks of debate among community residents and students over whether removing police and deputies from schools was necessary and, above all, safe.
“It was critical that the board heard and continue to hear from our students on this and other issues,” Kilgore said, according to the Daily Herald. “It is unacceptable that students are hurting and feel unsafe in our schools. We are determined to review our current school safety plans and will make the systemic changes necessary to ensure the safety and wellness of all students.”
Edmonds Police Chief Jim Lawless opposed the decision and argued against it in the weeks leading up to the vote. He said that Kilgore had maligned law enforcement in the process without any evidence for doing so, “I am quite disappointed that she would paint your police department’s efforts with such a broad brush.”
“While I completely understand the desire and sense of urgency to immediately address community concerns surrounding social injustices, I believe that this decision was borne out of emotion, not data, and was hastily undertaken,” Lawless said, according to the Daily Herald. “I am disappointed that this process was not more deliberative and inclusive of all parties involved – the district, students, faculty, staff, and yes, the police department.”
School districts in other parts of the country have also cut contracts with local law enforcement and banned school resource officers. The Minneapolis school board voted on June 2 to remove school resource officers from campus. Board Chairwoman Kim Ellison said that the Minneapolis police and the school had different “values” in the wake of George Floyd’s death, which followed a Minneapolis police officer using his knee to pin Floyd’s neck to the ground.
On June 4, Portland Public Schools superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero banned school resource officers from nine schools in his district while announcing increased spending on school counseling and social programs. The school district did not pay for the officers.