Annysa Johnson, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
|Demonstrators gather outside Milwaukee Public Schools administrative offices Wednesday to support a resolution ending district contracts with the Milwaukee Police Department for resource officers. (Photo: Rick Wood / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)|
Milwaukee Public Schools will no longer fund police resource officers to patrol outside its schools, under a resolution unanimously approved by board members late Thursday.
MPS is the latest district to sever ties with its local police agency in the wake of protests over the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis last month.
The resolution also bars the district from buying and maintaining what was termed "criminalizing equipment," such as metal detectors, and facial recognition and social media monitoring software.
The decision is a victory for the youth advocacy group Leaders Igniting Transformation, which has pushed for the district to stop the use of school resource officers, metal detectors and other policies it argues criminalize student behaviors and feed what is commonly derided as the school-to-prison pipeline.
"Tonight, young people of color in Milwaukee made history. This has been a long time coming," said Cendi Tena, high school organizing director for LIT, which drew about 500 people for a demonstration and rally at MPS' central offices on the eve of the vote.
"Youth of color advocated very hard against the criminalization of black and brown students. They organized heavily, consistently shared their experiences and their stories. They earned it. This is their victory."
The resolution was put forward by two women of color, board members Sequanna Taylor, who is black, and Paula Phillips, who is Latina.
Thursday's vote followed testimony by more than two dozen speakers, all in support, who argued that school resource officers do not make schools safer and that police violence is disproportionately directed at black and brown people.
More than 700 others flooded the district with emails and letters overwhelmingly supporting the resolution.
In advocating for the measure, Taylor recited the names of black men and women killed by police or vigilantes: Mike Brown, Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Breonna Taylor, Dontre Hamilton and others, saying these could have been her own sons, her nephew, her cousin.
"I've heard from many students that having police in schools does not present a positive effect," she said. "And while I understand the need for police, I do not understand the need for them directly in our schools."
The Milwaukee Police Department issued a statement during the meeting, saying it "fully supports the Milwaukee Public School system if it decides to remove all School Resource Officers from its schools."
"We agree with the many voices from our community who believe that the funding should be reinvested into our public school system to support social services. Regardless of the vote, MPD will continue to support MPS and MPS students."
Read more: https://www.jsonline.com/story/news/education/2020/06/18/mps-end-use-police-officers-outside-their-schools-athletic-and-other-events/3216902001/