Jun 12, 2020 - Politics & Policy

School districts cut ties with local police amid George Floyd protests


Protesters in Minneapolis. Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

Public school districts across the U.S. are cutting ties with local police departments, amid a wave of pressure and protests following the death of George Floyd.

Why it matters: Many districts have introduced school resource officers, known as SROs, over the last couple decades in response to school shootings. But civil rights advocates argue that installing officers in schools puts students of color at risk.

  • Those who support removing police officers have instead called for replacing them with unarmed campus security focused on conflict resolution.

What's happening: As protests erupted in Minneapolis following Floyd's killing, the city's school board voted unanimously to drop the district's contract with the local police department.

  • On June 4, Guadalupe Guerrero, the superintendent of Portland Public Schools, announced the district would discontinue the use of SROs and reevaluate its relationship with the Portland Police Bureau.
  • Seattle Public Schools announced earlier this week plans to suspend the district's partnership with the police department for a year.
  • The Denver School Board on Thursday night voted unanimously to pull SROs out of the city's schools.
  • The majority of Oakland, California's school board backed a proposal to eliminate the district’s internal police force.

What to watch: Public school officials in Chicago, New York City and Phoenix are also facing pressure to sever district ties with police departments, per the Washington Post.

Between the lines: There is a body of research that suggests racial disparities in how schools discipline their students.

  • A 2018 study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that black students are more likely to be disciplined than their white peers — whether by facing suspensions or law enforcement referrals.
  • A 2010 study by researchers at Villanova University found that schools with a larger percentage of black students were more likely to have more severe disciplinary policies.

But, but, but: It's unclear whether the increase of in-school policing, which has accelerated in recent decades in the wake of high-profile shootings like Columbine, has actually made schools safer.

  • “We don’t have rigorous, causal evidence proving that SROs make schools safer,” Matthew Mayer, a professor at the Rutgers Graduate School of Education who studies school violence prevention, tells Pew.
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