What is the future of policing in schools?

Activists want schools to replace police officers with social workers and mental health counselors
By: | June 9, 2020
Many superintendents have voiced support for anti-racist protests after George Floyd's death, but only a few have said they will remove police from their schools. (GettyImages/SDI Productions)Many superintendents have voiced support for anti-racist protests after George Floyd's death, but only a few have said they will remove police from their schools. (GettyImages/SDI Productions)

The death of George Floyd and the ongoing nationwide protests that followed have spurred activists to call for the removal of police—including school resource officers—from U.S.  school buildings.

So far, few district leaders have taken such action, but Portland Public Schools—and two other districts in Oregon’s biggest city—are some of the exceptions.

Portland Public Schools Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero announced last week that police would no longer patrol the buildings in the state’s largest district, The Oregonian reported. 

The district will increase spending on “on social workers, counselors and culturally specific supports for students,” according to The Oregonian. 

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In Chicago, however, Mayor Lori Lightfoot says she will not remove officers from schools despite calls from the city’s teachers union and other community organizations, Chalkbeat reports.

“Unfortunately, we need security in our schools,” Lightfoot said in a press conference, according to Chalkbeat. “I think we’ve got a system in place that works very well.”

Last year, every one of the city’s Local School Councils that already had police in their buildings voted to keep them, according to Chalkbeat. 

In the nation’s capital, D.C. Public Schools Superintendent Lewis Ferebee has also appeared reluctant to remove police from schools, DCist.com reported.

The district’s “Safe Passage” has been successful in providing police officers to guide students safely to and from schools, Ferebee noted, according to the website

“I don’t think defunding police or reducing the presence of law enforcement in our schools is going to resolve the challenges that we have experienced for decades with oppression and systemic racism,” Ferebee told DCist.

Police-free schools movement may grow

But the pressure on school leaders to remove police looks likely to increase in some cities.

Denver’s school board could pass a resolution this week to remove police from schools, as a majority of its members have expressed support for the change, Chalkbeat reported.

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“We want to be able to have a school system where students are greeted with school nurses, with full-time mental health supports, and not the Denver Police Department,” school board Director Tay Anderson said, according to Chalkbeat.

In California, leaders of the United Teachers Los Angeles union have voiced support for disbanding the Los Angeles School Police Department, according to the Los Angeles Times.

LAUSD spends about $70 million of its $7.9 billion budget on the force and its 400 officers, according to the Los Angeles Times. 

“We have to dismantle white supremacy. We must … defund the police and bring in the mental health services that our students need,” Cecily Myart-Cruz, the union’s incoming president, told the Los Angeles Times.