Members of Washington State’s Edmonds School Board voted unanimously to end contracts with law enforcement agencies, thereby removing police presence from three schools in the district, deeming officers a “real risk” to students.
The Edmonds School Board this week voted to sever ties between three law enforcement agencies and three high schools — Meadowdale, Mountlake Terrace, and Edmonds-Woodway — effectively removing school resource officers (SROs) from the educational facilities. The decision follows pressure from Black Lives Matter activists, many of whom have called for the defunding — and in some cases, abolishment — of the police.
Board President Deborah Kilgore attributed the decision to the current environment and the “highly-dangerous national and state systems of policing, supervision and incarceration,” even deeming officers a “real risk” to students.
“Given the facts of our highly-dangerous national and state systems of policing, supervision and incarceration, by being housed in our high schools — no matter how helpful and beloved they are — police are a real risk to many of our students and they contribute to stress and bad health for hundreds of children,” Kilgore stated.
As My Edmonds News detailed:
The SRO program is set up through an interlocal agreement between the district and local law enforcement agencies, which define the SRO’s role at the school. Four high schools, including Lynnwood, Meadowdale, Mountlake Terrace and Edmonds-Woodway, had SROs. Involved agencies included the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office and Lynnwood, Mountlake Terrace and Edmonds police departments, respectively.
The board has not yet made a decision on removing SROs from Lynnwood High School as it is “located in unincorporated Snohomish County.” Because of the longer law enforcement response time, “it contracts with the sheriff’s office for an SRO presence,” the outlet added.
With this move, the board said it will review safety plans and make changes so students can maintain a sense of safety despite the absence of officers.
“Having the board review the overall safety and wellness plans for the district and how all the pieces fit together is an essential first element to various functions of safety and wellness in the system,” said incoming Superintendent Dr. Gustavo Balderas.
Despite the board’s unanimous decision, not all community members were on board.
“I have seen Officer O’Hagan approach students of all colors to engage them in positive interaction, repairing the gap between the police and people of color,” Mountlake Terrace High School teacher Lavon Driscoll said of officer Kyle O’Hagan in a letter submitted to the board.
However, Driscoll’s plea was not enough to move the board members.
“It did come down to them [the school board], each of them, individually, hearing from students who felt either hurt, traumatized, or have some sort of negative impact from having police presence on campus,” Harmony Weinberg, communications manager for the Edmonds School District, said.
Edmonds Acting Police Chief Jim Lawless released a statement following the board’s vote, expressing his disappointment that the decision was not “inclusive of all parties involved” — including the police department — and determined that the members made the decision out of “emotion, not data.”
“I do not believe that the School Board President’s comments are in any way reflective of the positive relationships and impacts that our officer has had at Edmonds Woodway High School – I am quite disappointed that she would paint your police department’s efforts with such a broad brush,” he said in part.
“This is an opportunity lost to continue to develop and grow positive relationships between law enforcement and the youth within our community,” he added:
— Edmondspolice (@EdmondsPolice) June 24, 2020
The board’s vote coincides with similar moves in Seattle, as the Seattle School Board voted on Wednesday to halt a partnership with the Seattle Police Department (SPD).
“This whole issue needs a restart. [SPS] will have a relationship with SPD,” board member Zachary DeWolf said, according to the Seattle Times.
“SPD will still have interactions with SPS when there is a clear danger to students or our schools, as in violent crimes or gun violence,” he added.
Similarly, the Oakland Unified School District voted to abolish its own police force during a board meeting on Wednesday, unanimously passing the “George Floyd Resolution to Eliminate Oakland Schools Police Department.” Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell has until the end of the year to craft an “alternative” safety plan as a result of the decision.
The San Francisco School Board also voted this week to cut ties with the San Francisco Police Department.
The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) board had been debating the topic of defunding the L.A. School Police but failed to reach a majority on any proposal, as Breitbart News detailed.