Victory for Activists: Madison School Board Ends Contract With Police
Students rally Thursday to celebrate the announcement that the Madison Metropolitan School Board would vote Monday to end its contract with the Madison Police Department. (Photo © Andy Manis)

The start of this school year will be the first without the presence of security resource officers.

Activists in Madison won a major victory Monday when members of the Madison Metropolitan School Board voted unanimously to end the school district’s contact with the Madison Police Department, making the start of this school year the first without a police presence for Madison public school students.

The vote comes on the heels of Milwaukee ending its contract with police officers last month and amid growing calls to address the impact of the presence of police officers on Black students in an educational setting. 

“What has always been true, but made plain and obvious over the last month in the wake of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, is that the institution of policing is contradictory and in direct opposition with the empowering learning environments we aim to build for Black and brown students,” school board member Savion Castro told UpNorthNews following the vote.

Demonstrators Thursday begin a victory march from the Capitol to the Department of Public Instruction offices in Madison. A mural depicting George Floyd and Malcom X looms behind them. (Photo © Andy Manis)

The end of the contracts save the district $373,440 this upcoming school year and $380,386 for the 2021-2022 school year.

In both cities, youth played a key role in the charge for change. In Madison, the Freedom Inc.’s Freedom Youth Squad had its members routinely speaking at school board meetings, while Leaders Igniting Transformation, a young-adult and youth-led advocacy group, has lobbied for the contract cancellation for over two years in Milwaukee.  

Freedom Inc. held a victory rally days before the vote, when leaders with the community organization first learned a special session to vote on removing officers from schools was set for Monday.

Last Thursday, hundreds of teenagers gathered at the Capitol. They celebrated the victory, three years in the making, and then marched to the Department of Public Instruction building several blocks from the Capitol.

Once there, white demonstrators formed a barrier by linking arms around the Black teenagers, who raised two flags on the flagpole outside the building with “Police Free Schools” messages on them.

White demonstrators lock arms as Black teenagers with Freedom Inc.’s Freedom Youth Squad raise “Police Free School” flags at the Department of Public Instruction Thursday in Madison. (Photo © Andy Manis)

Bianca Gomez, Freedom Inc.’s gender justice coordinator, told those at the Thursday rally that “police-free schools are a huge victor in our police-free schools campaign.”

She said there is more work to be done, though. That work starts with holding grownups accountable who call the police on students in school. 

“It is great that we are ending the contract, but we know police violence against our young people does not stop here,” Gomez said. “Every time a teacher, a security guard, a school administrator calls the police on our young people, we want an investigation.”

Bianca Gomez, Gender Justice Coordinator for Freedom Inc., talks to demonstrators outside the Capitol Thursday. (Photo © Andy Manis)

The police-free schools campaign also is working for transformative justice instead of punishment in schools, the investment in the leadership, creativity, and wellness for Black youth and other youth of color, and community control over schools. This means providing more youth, parents and trusted adults with decision-making power over schools. 

In a statement released following the school board’s vote, Freedom Inc. said “this great victory is made possible, not only by leadership of Freedom Inc.’s Balck and Southeast girls and LGBTQI+ youth here in Madison, but also the many activists and organizers across the country and the world leading our current global uprising in defence of Black life.”

“Following the police murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and countless others, millions of people are taking action to demand #DefundPolice and #InvestinCommunity,” read the Freedom Inc. statement. “We are winning and we are not done yet.”