Unanimous decision a win for young activists.
After more than three hours of discussion, testimony, and debate, the Milwaukee Public Schools Board of Directors on Thursday unanimously voted to cancel all contracts with the city’s Police Department.
The vote came a day after hundreds marched at the school district’s headquarters in a demonstration calling for the board to cut ties with police to help eliminate the school-to-prison pipeline. Other cities throughout the country have already canceled their police contracts or are considering doing so in the first major wave of reforms following the murder of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, by Minneapolis police.
“We can’t continue to have relationships with institutions that engage in racist activity,” said Tony Baez, vice president of the School Board.
Leaders Igniting Transformation, a young-adult and youth-led advocacy group, which has lobbied for the contract cancellation for over two years, in statement called the vote “a victory by and for Black and brown students.”
While having police in schools makes sense in theory, research has shown that police presence does not provide any demonstrable safety benefits. School resource officers disproportionately discipline and arrest students of color, contributing to the school-to-prison pipeline and making students feel less safe at school.
Advocates call for more funding for counselors and social workers.
“Creating safe schools must start with centering the voices and experiences of the young people, providing proper staffing levels for therapists, counselors, and other emotional and mental health support positions, and hiring educators of color who share similar life experiences to the students,” LIT said.
About 30 people spoke, all but one in support of removing police presence from MPS.
“Police officers are the furthest possible thing from anything that could be confused as a competent professional in regards to their understanding of education or child development in our schools,” said Joe Riley, a social worker.
Lorraine Malcoe, an associate professor of health at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, said police in schools cause “severe and lasting trauma to young people. We need to listen to our student leaders of color.”