I started off in this event as a really engaged person. I was concerned about the opinions of the community on school police. As city councilman, Brandon Scott got up to say how the school system could not function without school police, many principals, parents and adults jumped up to praise his words. From simple observation of looking around the room, I could tell how this meeting was going to go. Adult faces crowded and sat in chairs all around the room and I barely only saw five youth faces in the room. Clearly, this was not a meeting meant to hear youth opinions. You could tell by the majority of adults and the bias of the supporters in the room that youth-adult partnerships meant nothing for youth input.
The meeting continued with presenting principal after principal, giving positive affirmations and accounts that they had seen with school police and why they so “desperately needed” police in their schools. But out of all the accounts of why police should be in school, the one response I cannot seem to understand is from Nikkia Rowe, a high school principal of Renaissance Academy High School who in pro-support of school police said “we cannot judge all based on the account of one.” I for one feel that this statement, especially coming from an adult and principle, is very hypocritical because on a everyday basis, the actions of one young person affect and define how all youth are seen in the eyes of our “supposed elders.” It is proven from this meeting and the fact that adults don’t like to listen to youth. Youth are so used to their voices being unheard that they don’t even bother to voice their opinions because they will be ignored.
Then as those of opposition began to talk, the atmosphere of the room changed. Much to my observation, as Assistant Public Defender, Jenny Egan began to speak, the north avenue board seemed to become very intense. See, Egan has provided them with information regarding school arrests and data that the school system fails to investigate. From the data, she told the board that well too often, “school police are used to enforce, and sometimes brutally enforce, low-level crimes.”
As Egan was rushed off the podium, one of the board members seemed to be prepared to oppose any arguments from students and people who were against school police, particularly against police carrying guns. This further established the environment as a very biased place because while it was open to the public to address their concerns, it seemed that the committee has already chosen its side. As the police supporters for guns roared in the room, I could no longer take the unfairness and hypocrisy going on in the room. After several outbursts and comments against the hypocritical supporters and several incidents where my co-workers asked me to be quiet, I decided it would be best if I’d leave the meeting. This decision not only came from the growing irritation from the bias, but from the lack the youth in the room to speak on behalf of themselves.
There were literally only four youth who were there in regards to speaking out against police in schools, especially with guns. Afiya Ervin made the emphasis after the Reach Partnership beating of a student from a police officer that this should be a “wake up call.” She continued to say that “We are students. We are not enemies or punching bags.” Again, the students were faced with prepared opposition from a certain board member, which again asserted the idea previously made from principle Rowe, that one incident should not define all police officers.
After I and several others, along with the students from City Bloc who also presented arguments that the policy for police in schools needs to be heavily reviewed and revised from “top to bottom” by David Pontious, we discussed the frustration and hypocrisy we observed and felt inside the room. It’s one thing to ask the community how they feel about school police. It’s an especially easy thing to gather a bunch of adults in a room to say how necessary school police with guns are in schools. But it is totally another effort to gather a bunch of youth and ask them how they feel about school police, with guns. It is another thing to go around to city schools and ask them how they feel about them and what should be done. That’s really the only way that youth are going to actually be the future, if and only if we develop our own!