Six weeks after the largest school district in the city kicked cops off campus, its school board unanimously voted to bring them back for after-school events.
The San Jose Unified School District renewed terms and conditions Thursday for police officers while they’re on campus. The agreement allows the district to hire SJPD officers as “private security guards” for events such as football games and dances, despite protests from some community members.
The agreement goes through Dec. 31.
The district is not planning to bring police back to patrol the halls, school board President Brian Wheatley told San José Spotlight before the vote.
“It’s clear to us how some in the community feel about police on campus during the school days,” Wheatley said.
But the agreement is necessary for the district and city’s police to work together, school officials say.
“For anybody who comes on campus, there are certain rules to follow,” board member Wendi Mahaney-Gurahoo said. “If we don’t have an agreement (with SJPD)… we won’t know how to respond appropriately.”
Board member Teresa Castellanos asked district employees to continue to find the best practices to maintain student safety without police on campus. The board directed employees to come back with new solutions, with a goal to finalize a plan by December.
Emotions ran high at the meeting as parents, students and teachers voiced opposing viewpoints on having cops on campus.
“This new (agreement) with SPJD is not what I want,” teacher Tomara Hall said. “If I have children, they will not come here.”
Joseph Heffernan, president of the San Jose Administrators Association, urged the board to restore the contract with SJPD.
“An overwhelming majority of police officers are committed to the communities in which they serve and to their profession,” Heffernan said. “Why would we then exclude them from our community?”
SJUSD will hire officers as security guards for most of its large events, Superintendent Nancy Albarrán said. The district did not discuss how much money will be spent on them.
“Violence is one of our concerns, and while this doesn’t necessarily happen yet, we see what’s happening nationally, around the community, everywhere,” Albarrán said. “What we don’t want to do is leave that responsibility to our teachers.”
Some parents were livid with the decision, with one woman shouting at board members for more than two minutes while angrily waving her hands and pacing back and forth toward the podium.
“I’ve had enough of this, and my tax dollars pays for this mess,” said Crystal Calhoun, a grandmother to three SJUSD students, raising her voice as Wheatley tried to calm her down. “Are you in bed with SJPD? I’m sick of all this s–t. All you talk about is SJPD.”
The board members quickly took their belongings and left the room, as Calhoun continued on before leaving with other members of the San Jose Unified Equity Coalition, a group that has called for police-free campus for a year.
The meeting reconvened when the crowd left.
The district had a police officer at the meeting to “ensure safety,” school officials announced at the beginning of the meeting. They said comments from previous meetings prompted them to do so.
The agreement came as a surprise for parents, students and advocates who spent a year pushing for police-free campuses. They fear it will open doors for police to be at district schools regularly again.
More than a month ago, the coalition celebrated after the board voted 3-2 to reject a contract between the district and SJPD.
The coalition, made up of students, parents and advocates, has rallied to kick cops off school campuses for a year. They say police do more harm than good for students, especially those who are Black, Latinx or disabled. Those groups disproportionately face discipline and arrests from on-campus police that could lead to a school-to-prison pipeline, according to ACLU data.
The new agreement is similar to one the district approved last December, which also included language about hiring SJPD officers as security guards. It clarifies that the officers hired by the district remain city employees and have to follow SJPD’s rules.
In August 2019, the board approved a $1.4 million contract to have 46 SJPD officers on campuses for the 2019-20 school year. It did not have a contract last year as students did distance learning.
SJUSD wasn’t the first local school district to remove cops from its campuses. The Alum Rock and the East Side Union High School districts voted last year to remove San Jose police officers from their schools.