Calif. District Votes to Hire Police for Extracurricular Events

In June, the San Jose Unified School District in San Jose, Calif., voted to end its school officer resource program. Police officers will no longer be present on campus during regular school hours when students return to classes next week. However, on the evening of Thursday, Aug. 12, the board voted to hire off-duty SJPD officers as security for extracurricular activities and events on campus. The vote was unanimous; however, reactions among parents and the larger community were mixed.

The June decision to remove SJPD officers from campus came without any suggestions or plans for a replacement security presence on campus. It also went against the input of superintendents and principals district-wide. “I made a mistake as board president on June 24,” said Board of Education President Brian Wheatley. “Once the vote was over—because the staff recommended continuing the SRO program [but] the board voted no—what I should have done is said, ‘Okay, colleagues, we need to spend some time now talking and giving directions to staff about the rationale behind it and next steps.’”

The decision to continue the relationship with SJPD proved controversial among parents. “We thought it was no police on campus as of June 24,” said Crystal Calhoun of the San Jose Unified Equity Coalition. “Because when you have a school district where there are more police officers on campus than counselors, you know, what is the real message you are sending to the students?” he later added.

Wheatley said he had considered but dismissed the idea of hiring private security. “Someone asked me why not have security guards,” he said. “Nothing against security guards, but my understanding is they don’t have the training, experience, knowledge.”

According to local news, the agreement runs through the end of the calendar year. The board plans to revisit the decision at another meeting before December. Trustees will also reconsider whether to bring officers back to campus during the school day, or to continue partnering with them for security at large school events like graduations and football games. In the meantime, staff have been tasked with researching the decisions that surrounding school districts have made.

According to local news, school districts in Oakland and San Francisco have also removed police presence from schools—but in favor of building up restorative justice plans and building up non-police response programs like interventions and counseling. The Fremont school board voted to end its school resource officer program and reversed its decision shortly after.