The Madison, Wisconsin teachers union wants to remove school resource officers from all schools and replace them with additional counselors, psychologists, social workers, nurses and mental health specialists.
Madison School Board President Gloria Reyes has resisted calls to remove police from schools in recent years, and Black Lives Matter protests at her home last week hasn’t changed her perspective. But Madison Teachers Inc. is now leaning on officials to make the move, with the second of two options to end the district’s contract with the Madison Police Department expiring on Wednesday, Channel 3000 reports.
On Sunday, MTI President Andy Waity backed the movement to remove school resource officers, with a caveat that would boost the union’s membership rolls significantly.
“If we remove police officers from our schools, but do not adequately staff those same schools with social workers, nurses, counselors, and psychologists, we are perpetuating harm upon our most vulnerable young people,” Waity said. “If we are serious about being anti-racist as a Madison community, we must fully support our students, not just by subtracting one group, but significantly adding another.”
Local activists have demanded the removal of police from Madison’s four high schools for years, but those efforts intensified in the wake of George Floyd’s death and the protests and riots in the weeks since.
Last week, Black Lives Matter protestors staked BLM flags and American flags defaced with profanities on Reyes’ front lawn in an effort to pressure the board president into removing police officers from schools, Channel 3000 reports.
“How can we say that taking officers out of our schools will all of a sudden stop the arrest of black and brown people?” Reyes questioned in response to a Facebook live video of the protest. “I would rather have an officer who has a relationship with students who can de-escalate. There are so many instances like this. We have to deal with the institutional racism that exists in police culture. That should be our focus.”
Leadership at all four of Madison’s high schools oppose the efforts to remove police from the buildings, according to the news site.
In Madison, the teachers union had previously supported the use of school resource officers, citing the benefits of building relationships with police.
“However, it has become apparent from conversations with our children and community that the benefits of having police officers stationed inside our schools is outweighed by the racialized trauma experienced by some of our community members of color,” according to the MTI statement.
In total, the union is calling on the district to hire 33 additional staff based on the ACLU’s “metric of equitable staffing” if the Madison school officials opt to remove police officers.
The Wisconsin State Journal reports:
The board has until Wednesday to vote on reducing the number of SROs from four to three, which would take effect at the start of the 2021 calendar year. Board members also have until Sept. 15 to decide if they want to back out of the third and final year of the contract for the 2021-22 school year.
The situation in Madison comes as the Minneapolis school board voted to remove police from city schools, a response to Black Lives Matter protests over Floyd’s death while in custody of Minneapolis police.
Portland Public Schools Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero also announced last week the district plans on “discontinuing the regular presence of school resource officers.” Others in Portland are looking to expand on the decision to also bar Portland police from providing security during school sports and other events, Oregon Live reports.