After voting to remove police presence on San Jose Unified School District (SJUSD) campuses on June 24, the SJUSD Board of Education decided this month to keep the same officers on as moonlighters for large events held after-hours.
Groups like the San Jose Unified Equity Coalition (SJUEC) have fought to eliminate campus police presence since anti-police sentiment gained popularity last summer. Like many others, lead SJUEC organizer Crystal Calhoun believes that “(Police) need to handle criminals. They don’t need to handle children.”
Others have disagreed. San Jose Planning Commission Vice Chair Rolando Bonilla said that while the situation is complex, eliminating police completely on campus is a “grave mistake that can be different in saving lives in a live shooter situation,” as reported by KRON4 news.
Despite the June 25 announcement, district administrators and the school board agreed that large public gatherings – mainly football games – will still require security. “At a football game, it’s not just kids and parents, it’s the public,” said school board president Brian Wheatley. “And keeping the public safe is important for everybody.”
While advocates against campus police presence push for private security in lieu of police officers, Wheatley argues that these officers are already trained for handling a school environment. He believes the idea of a complete removal of any police presence is “wonderful in theory,” however, “to really do that, it’s a three-to-five-year project,” and football games begin in a couple of weeks.
After lobbying against school police presence for almost a year, SJUEC members’ hard work finally paid off in June when the school board voted 3-2 to end its partnership with the San Jose Police Department (SJPD). “It literally took 10 months of blood, sweat and tears,” said Calhoun. “What was once tears of hopelessness, are now tears of joy.” Although Wheatley and the board see this latest decision to keep officers on as moonlighters as consistent with the sentiment of removing the constant police presence during school, Calhoun and other critics do not view after-hours police presence as being particularly different. It still undermines the coalition’s long-term goals of implementing alternatives to police presence that emphasize non-criminal responses to student behavior. “We aren’t talking about the positive stuff we wanted to do with children,” said Calhoun. “All we talk about is police.”
Others, like Joseph Heffernan, president of the San Jose Administrators Association, voiced opposing sentiments at the June 24 meeting. “An overwhelming majority of police officers are committed to the communities in which they serve and to their profession,” argued Heffernan. “Why would we then exclude them from our community?”
Staff was directed to explore how other districts are handling the issue, and the Board will review the matter again later this fall, according to reports.