The national reckoning over police violence has spread to schools, with several districts ending relationships with local police departments out of concern that the officers patrolling their hallways represent more of a threat than a form of protection, the New York Times reports. School districts in Minneapolis, Seattle and Portland, Or., have promised to remove officers, with the Seattle superintendent saying the presence of armed police “prohibits many students and staff from feeling fully safe.” In Oakland, leaders expressed support for eliminating the district’s internal police force, while the Denver Board of Education voted unanimously Thursday to end its police contract. In Los Angeles and Chicago, two of the three largest U.S. school districts, teachers’ unions are pushing to get police out, confronting another powerful, heavily unionized profession.
Some teachers and students, African Americans in particular, consider officers on campus a danger, rather than a bulwark against everything from fights to drug use to mass shootings. In Orange County, Fl., in November, a middle school resource officer was fired after a video showed him grasping a student’s hair and yanking her head back during an arrest after students fought. A school officer in Vance County, N.C., lost his job after he repeatedly slammed an 11-year old boy to the ground. For years, critics have called on districts to rein in campus police. They say mass shootings like those in Parkland, Fl., or Newtown, Ct., are rare, and crime on school grounds has declined. The presence of officers in hallways has a profound impact on students of color and those with disabilities, who are more likely to be harshly punished for ordinary misbehavior, studies show. Efforts to remove school police face resistance from the police themselves and concern from some parents and school officials that removing officers could leave students vulnerable.