Oakland School District unanimously votes to abolish police department at campuses after decade-long campaign
OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA: As protesters around the country called for police reform in the wake of George Floyd's death, one school district listened. It has now acted and agreed to eliminate its police force from its campuses.
In what was a big victory for the organization Black Organizing Project, the board for the Oakland Unified School District unanimously passed the 'George Floyd Resolution to Eliminate Schools Police Department' which they had helped craft and bring to the table.
The board also added an amendment to mandate that teachers and staff, including board members, be trained in anti-racism and unconscious or implicit bias training.
Black Organizing Project had been calling for the vote for the last week, putting together demonstrations and car rallies in front of the school district office. But it wasn't just down to recent protests. It was the culmination of an effort that had been years in the making, reported Mercury News.
Jessica Black, the organizing director for Black Organizing Project, had been fighting for the removal of the police from the district's schools for the last 10 years and said this was a "historical moment."
The district's police department had started as a security force in 1957 before later receiving police status. Then, in the late 90s, the district expanded the force to make it more autonomous from the city police. While it was shut down in 2001 for being expensive and ineffective, it was brought back in 2007 following a legal battle.
The hope is, this time, the shutdown is more permanent considering the detrimental effect it had on children of color. While black students make up 26 percent of the student population in the district, they accounted for 73 percent of the arrests.
The opposition to the police's presence on campus was made apparent by the 30-odd speakers who addressed the district board this past Wednesday, June 24, as well.
Every single one said they were in favor of removing them, with some speaking about how black and brown students could feel dehumanized, disrespected, and unsafe with the police around. Others urged the board to set an example for the rest of the country.
The school district reportedly spent $9.3 million on its police force between 2013 and 2018 -- money which can now be redirected elsewhere. Indeed, the annual $2.5 million spent on 10 sworn officers and police administrators is expected to go towards other student support services and restorative justice efforts.
School District Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell will have from August until December 31 to build a new alternative safety plan, which will include input from a committee of community members and other stakeholders, according to Mercury News.
School Security Officers, however, are expected to be kept on campus as part of the new safety plan though they will likely be retrained and reconfigured into a new role.
"This isn’t just a small drop in the bucket. It’s a historical moment," Black said. "We’re still fighting to understand what true freedom in this country looks like. Abolishing that system is critically important."