LOCAL NEWS

Seattle Public Schools to reevaluate relationship with Seattle police

Jun 9, 2020, 5:48 PM
schools...
Bailey Gatzert Elementary School. (Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)

Seattle Public Schools announced Tuesday that the School Board will consider a resolution to reevaluate the district’s relationship with the Seattle Police Department “in light of the current national events.”

Seattle Public Schools asks police to cease staging on school property

Also under consideration would be enacting a district-wide, one-year suspension of the School Emphasis Officers and School Resource Officers in schools. This resolution will be considered at the Wednesday school board meeting.

Superintendent Denise Juneau said SPS “must ensure that SPD’s values and actions are in alignment with our strategic plan, Seattle Excellence, as well as our values as an organization.”

The suspension would mean SPD would not be present on SPS school campuses except in emergencies.

The full statement from Superintendent Juneau follows:

Dear SPS staff, families, students, and partners:

While grappling with the atrocities of the last weeks, I have spent the last week evaluating the district’s relationship with the Seattle Police Department (SPD). Four School Emphasis Officers, employed and paid by the City of Seattle, work in our schools. One of our schools has an SPD School Resource Officer, also paid by the City. I have spoken to staff, principals, and students of those schools, and the Seattle Council PTSA has also gathered and shared feedback from Latinx and Black students and families from those schools. They have been a great partner and always ensure our communities are heard and validated in our decision making.

In light of the current national events: the perpetuation of systemic racism, the murders of Black people by police officers across our country, the violence displayed by some law enforcement officers here in Seattle, the School Board will consider a resolution that would re-evaluate our relationship with SPD and enact a district-wide one-year suspension of the SEOs and SRO in our schools during their Wednesday board meeting. We must ensure that SPD’s values and actions are in alignment with our strategic plan, Seattle Excellence, as well as our values as an organization. SPD will not be present on our campuses except in emergencies.

I also learned late last night that SPD and the National Guard had used district property as a staging area in their response to protests. SPS did not give permission, nor condone the use of our property for staging militarized police or military personnel or vehicles. I have contacted SPD and informed them they may not use our space in this way and have been assured it will not happen again. Our school buildings and properties should be safe, welcoming spaces for students to learn and are currently used for distribution of meals, learning packets, books, and health resources, not for militarized responses.

While the focus of the School Emphasis Officers has been to build relationships and provide assistance to youth in crisis, the unintended consequence of their presence in our buildings could bring more distress to our young people. While these officers do not do any kind of enforcement, they are armed in our school buildings, and I know that at this moment in time, the presence of an armed officer prohibits many students and staff from feeling fully safe and welcome in our buildings.

You have heard me say that I believe public education is the mechanism that can bring about change for the future and I am committed to dismantling racist practices and creating spaces so that our young people can live their fullest truths and feel safe bringing their whole selves to school each day.

The anti-Black systems in place in this country are deeply rooted and have been fortified over hundreds of years. The work to tear down and re-build these systems is complex. We will re-evaluate the presence of SPD in our buildings, but like any other organization that supports our students within our walls, they must be aligned to our strategic plan Seattle Excellence, and work to uphold and support the inherent brilliance and innocence in each of our students.

Thank you for your partnership and support of our students.

Sincerely,

Superintendent Denise Juneau

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Seattle Public Schools to reevaluate relationship with Seattle police