POLICE

Debate Heats Up Over School Police Officers

Some are speaking out against a call to remove police from schools after the Massachusetts Senate passed a bill to make resource officers optional

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Recent calls for police reform sparked by the death of George Floyd include a controversial demand to remove police officers from schools, but some are speaking out against it.

“They should not get rid of school police," Charlestown High School graduate Danny Munoz said.

Munoz believes removing school police would be harmful for students. The 2019 graduate was mentored by Boston Public School's resource Officer Derek Wright.

“He is definitely a mentor for me. He taught me how to workout…how to be a better person," Munoz said.

A police reform bill passed by the Massachusetts Senate this week would allow schools the option of removing resource officers in districts across the state. The bill also imposes police oversight, bans choke-holds, limits the use of tear gas, licenses all law enforcement officers and trains them on the history of racism.

Boston Public School elementary teacher Jennifer Hayes argued that school police officers help with conflict and danger.

“There is a need for police officers in certain areas where you need a police officer, not an extra psychologist or social worker," Hayes said.

More than 4,600 people signed a petition to keep police in Boston Public Schools.

Still, the Massachusetts Teachers Association – the state’s largest teachers union – has called for police-free schools, along with a growing number of activists and elected officials.

Many of them cite studies showing Black and Latino students are more likely to be suspended, arrested and disciplined in school.

“Children of Color are targeted, especially black girls are disciplined and placed in custody," Craig Simpson of Massachusetts Peace Action said.

Newly appointed Boston Public School Chief of Safety Services Neva Coakley Grice oversees 73 resource officers in 55 schools. She said there’s room for improvement in school policing but insists her officers are an integral part of the community.

“They are people underneath," Coakley Grice said. They’re the coaches, they’re the mentors, they’re the advisors.”

The sweeping police reform bill heads to the House with just about three weeks left in the legislative session. If it passes, Gov. Charlie Baker would then decide whether or not to sign it into law.

A new police reform bill aims to hold police accountable and add training for all officers.
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