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Tipsheet

These Schools Removed Cops to Appease BLM—It Didn't End Well

AP Photo/David Zalubowski

Two years after a high school in Denver, Colorado, removed all law enforcement officers from school grounds based on the belief that arresting "Black and Brown students for minor school infractions" perpetuates the "school-to-prison pipeline," a black gunman, who was an expelled student, shot two school administrators Wednesday. Sadly, it's a disturbing yet predictable trend we're seeing in schools across America that have rid themselves of on-campus police to appease Black Lives Matter activists.

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Denver Public Schools—Colorado

As Julio covered, during the height of the violent BLM-Antifa riots, the Denver Public Schools Board of Education passed a resolution in June 2020 that eliminated the presence of all school resource officers (SRO), a unanimous 7 - 0 vote that ended its contract with the Denver Police Department and nixed all SRO positions within a year, over concerns that the "outsourcing of school discipline to police disproportionately impacts Black and Brown students." According to the SRO Transition Project's report, the resolution was driven by the district's "commitment to dismantle racism and become an anti-racist organization."

The board's vice president Auon'tai M. Anderson, who introduced the resolution, celebrated its passage. "WE DID IT!" Anderson tweeted. "#BlackLivesMatter." In a recent Medium article, titled "Removing SROs from Schools: A Step Towards Justice and Safety for Students of Color," Anderson asserted on Feb. 16: "While there have been concerns about the safety and well-being of students, it’s important to acknowledge the negative impacts that SROs can have on students, particularly students of color."

Now, two armed officers will be stationed at Denver East High School for the remainder of the academic year in the wake of Wednesday's double shooting that injured two deans. DPS Superintendent Alex Marrero sent a letter addressed to the school board, informing its members that at least one armed cop will also be posted at each of the district's comprehensive high schools.

The city's Democrat mayor agreed and "strongly" backed Marrero's move. In a statement posted to social media, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock admitted the decision to do away with SROs was "a mistake" and that "we must move swiftly to correct it."

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Shortly after, the board issued a response, saying it supports the police's return for the rest of this school year.

17-year-old Austin Lyle was identified as the shooter who wounded the pair of faculty members, leaving one in "serious condition" following surgery. Lyle was under "a safety plan" that was specifically designed for him to be patted down each day before entering the school, but during the daily search Wednesday, the student pulled out a weapon, shot the two deans, and fled. As Matt pointed out, the now-deceased black suspect's race is actively being omitted from the mainstream media's coverage.

Denver7 reports that DPS has a "discipline matrix" in place, which measures student misconduct on six varying levels of severity. The objective is to "disrupt bias, fight disproportionality, and apply the Discipline Matrix in [an] anti-racist and trauma-informed manner," explains a document outlining the disciplinary ladder, intended to "make a difference in breaking historical inequity!"

Lyle's "safety agreement" was individually tailored from a threat-level assessment, educators told Denver7 News, but Marrero declined to specify what may have prompted it other than "past behavior." According to the Cherry Creek School District, Lyle was a former student there "previously disciplined for violations of board policy" at nearby Overland High School, prior to expulsion.

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This week marked the second shooting at Denver East High School, which is reportedly shaken by frequent lockdowns and violence, in the span of weeks. Last month, a 16-year-old classmate was shot dead in his car outside of the school on Feb. 13. Two teens—both DPS students—have been arrested, per KDVR. The slain student's brother is speaking out on Wednesday's shooting, asserting that the removal of police begets gun violence. "It could have been avoided if there was a cop there to prevent anything like this from happening or at least just scare the people that are committing crimes like these," the victim's sibling said.

Alexandria City Public Schools—Virginia

In the summer of 2021, the Alexandria City Council voted to end the decades-old SRO program at Alexandria City Public Schools and reallocate police funding towards "mental health resources." By the fall of that year, the city council reversed course, approving the temporary reinstatement of police in school hallways. "Our students are sending us warning shots, literal warning shots," Alexandria City High School's principal Peter Balas said at the council meeting. "My staff, the students—we're not okay."

Before the reversal, the 2021 academic year was marred by a wave of violent incidents, including the triggering of an ACHS lockdown when a student was found in possession of a handgun, an all-out brawl inside the ACHS cafeteria, which was captured on cellphone camera, just two days after school started, and a fight inside George Washington Middle School. The recording of the GWMS melee was posted by a since-deleted Instagram account, "gwmsfights2022," dedicated to posting student fights.

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Montgomery County Public Schools—Maryland

Less than a year after Montgomery County Public Schools became the first jurisdiction in Maryland to get rid of cops from its school buildings, the county backtracked in April 2022 when MCPS signed a new Memorandum of Understanding with Montgomery County's Police Department. MCPS strengthening its relationship with police caused an uproar among racial justice activists who fought to cleanse the district's schools of SROs over "racial disparities" in student arrests and police contact.

The about-face arrived months after a student shot a sophomore inside a school bathroom at Col. Magruder High School. Security footage shown in court depicted the school shooter skipping down the hallway after shooting his classmate as if he was "celebrating what he'd just done," the state's attorney said. The victim then spent months hospitalized, undergoing 10 surgeries.

"I want to know why the resource officers were taken out, and will they be put back into the schools," the injured teen's mother questioned. "In the event that [my son] wasn't the only target, I do think it would have helped to have SRO officers in the school." 

She sued MCPS for negligence over her son's life-threatening injuries, partly blaming the lack of SROs. "It was 36 minutes before another officer arrived," the mother argued. "A lot can happen in those 36 minutes and I hope they do bring SRO officers back."

According to data presented at an MCPS Board of Education meeting in February 2022, the district has seen an increase in cases of students bringing weapons to school compared to the 2019 and 2020 school years. An MCPS spokesperson also observed the district has seen an uptick in physical violence since students have restarted in-person learning, WUSA9 reported.

At the time, ABC7 News documented 102 sex assaults, 87 assaults, 82 school threats, 76 controlled substance incidents, 57 weapon-related incidents, 57 conflicts, 35 mental health incidents, 28 property crimes, and 4 robberies since August 2021.

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Des Moines Public Schools—Iowa

The public school system in Des Moines, Iowa, terminated its in-school contract with the city's police department in February 2021 due to an "overuse of law enforcement" with "students of color." In the police's place, Des Moines Public Schools have opted to enact so-called "restorative measures" instead like the enlistment of "campus monitors" and "restoration facilitators."

Since the replacement of SROs, school fights have intensified as videos of the brawls keep surfacing on social media, often uploaded by the now-removed Instagram page, "Brody Fights," a reference to Brody Middle School. Guns, knives, mace, rocks, a brick, and a stun gun are among the weapons being wielded in school brawls. In January, an East High School student was found possessing a handgun on campus, and in February, two North High School students had a handgun stashed away in a locker.

According to district data reported on by Axios Des Moines, disciplinary referrals, typically involving assaults or weapons, were up almost 30% to almost 520 cases in grades 9 through 12 in 2021, as compared to the same period in the 2019 - 2020 school year.

Pomona Unified School Board—California

Months after the Pomona Unified School Board approved a budget that excluded funding for the school policing program, the board voted unanimously in fall 2021 to immediately hire two SROs, an agreement which the city council approved. Efforts to beef up security were sparked by a shooting near Pomona High School that left a 12-year-old injured by broken glass and debris.

Beforehand, the defunding of PUSB's police force was celebrated as "a milestone" by a local organization of left-wing activists who claimed there was a disproportionate amount of black and Latino students being arrested compared to their white peers.

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More than 22% of youth arrested in Pomona are black despite representing only 5.6% of Pomona's population, according to a 2021 report issued by Gente Organizada, which had waged a successful four-year campaign to de-police Pomona's schools.

In response to news of the district's potential rehiring of police, a letter co-signed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California was sent to the Pomona Unified School District's superintendent, arguing that the district's school should remain police-free because law enforcement in schools "is one of the primary drivers of the criminalization of students of color" 

District of Columbia Public Schools—Washington, D.C.

In the nation's capital, the D.C. Council is implementing a years-long dissolution plan to gradually reduce the number of SROs in the district's public and charter schools from 60 police personnel—down from 100 at the peak of the Metropolitan Police Department's School Safety Division—to 40 members in 2023, then 20 by 2024, and dissolving the program altogether by 2025.

The police reduction is derived from the council-appointed D.C. Police Reform Commission's April 2021 report, which claims policing is "a tool of system racism," recommending that police are replaced with professionals in "positive youth development."

Since its implementation, students and adult community members continue to be injured or killed near schools. In January of this year, a uniformed guard working with the city's Safe Passage Safe Blocks initiative, an effort designed to keep students safe while commuting to and from school, was killed in a shooting outside of Coolidge High School. A 15-year-old student, who was sitting on a porch when three people approached and fired multiple rounds, died in an October shooting near Aiton Elementary School.

This month, a bill has been introduced by council members to halt and repeal the phase-out plan.

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