Students And Families for Education (SAFE), a newly-formed coalition of San Leandro parents, students and community members, will hold a rally on Tuesday, December 9th at 6pm, outside San Leandro City Hall. The rally will take place before the San Leandro School Board meeting at which the Board will vote on whether to divert hundreds of thousands of dollars from school classrooms towards paying police officers’ salaries. SAFE opposes the use of any school funds to pay for law enforcement. “San Leandro schools have been underfunded for years, class sizes have gone from 20 students to 28, and school counselors have been practically eliminated. The idea that we should be using limited resources to pay for police is simply outrageous” said Cynthia Chandler, a parent and co-founder of SAFE.
Earlier this year, the San Leandro Police Department applied for a $500,000 federal COPS grant to fund four police officers to be placed at San Leandro schools for four years. To the surprise of the community, the San Leandro police department asked the San Leandro Unified School District (SLUSD) to divert $1.7 million from its educational budget to “match” the funds from the grant. After negotiations with the City of San Leandro, the Superintendent brought to the Board a proposal that the City and School District split the cost of the grant, diverting $600,000 per year from the classroom.
“I am outraged that the school district is being asked to help fund police, and outraged that they would even consider providing this funding rather than funding the education of our children.” said Mitch Huitema, co-founder of a San Leandro volunteer-led math and science after school program and member of SAFE. “Members of our community have worked extremely hard to help our school district manage the incredible funding cuts that have occurred in recent years, from holding paper and pencil drives, to using Donors Choose to raise money for things like rugs and overhead projectors, to creating programs to help bolster projects. The school district is still not up to the funding levels it was at 10 years ago and we’re asking much more from our schools than we did then. There are so many ways this money could be used to prevent kids from the risk of getting into trouble in the first place – bringing back reasonable staffing of school counselors and restoring after school programs to the high school are just a few of the more obvious options.”
“I have yet to hear any factual justification for putting more police officers in our schools, much less for paying for more. The School District has no data on the effectiveness of the current school resource officers and research shows that having school officers in schools does not make schools safer,” said Mike Katz-Lacabe, an outgoing School Board trustee and member of SAFE, citing a 2011 study entitled “Police Officers in Schools.”
San Leandro High School currently has two school resource officers paid for by the City. According to Cathy Pickard, a recently-retired resource officer, most of her time was spent counseling students. “There is general agreement in our community that San Leandro students need as much access to qualified counselors, nurses, social workers, and other district staff who can help them with academic problems, the effects of poverty and homelessness, family violence, social pressures, and many other obstacles to their potential for success in school and in life. Despite their good intentions, most police officers do not have the specialized training necessary to properly attend to these needs. School counselors and other staff, moreover, receive much lower pay than sworn officers. Approximately two counselors can be hired, trained, and compensated for the cost of one school resource officer,” said Mark Hamilton, a counselor at Bancroft Middle School and SAFE member.
“We invite parents, students and community members to join us on Tuesday to let the School Board know that we need to put education ahead of incarceration. We should be striving to educate, not criminalize our youth,” said Chandler.
Anyone opposed to the COPS grant is also encouraged to speak at the School Board meeting, which starts at 7 PM, and/or to e-mail the School Board.
The rally will take place in front of San Leandro City Hall, on Tuesday, December 9th at 6pm.
Note: Students, Parents and Community Members are welcome to join SAFE. To subscribe to the googlegroup, please send an e-mail to: email@example.com
For more information, press inquiries, please contact Cynthia Chandler at (510) 325-4127 or Mike Katz-Lacabe at 510-207-7165.