FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
POMONA, CA- Gente Organizada, Public Advocates, and the ACLU of Southern California applaud the Pomona Unified School District (PUSD) in advance of the district’s move to approve a new school budget that will not include school-based police for the 2021-2022 school year.
District officials confirmed last week that it will not renew its contract for Community School Resource Officers (CSROs) with the Pomona Police Department. The decision means that PUSD will no longer have dedicated officers assigned to PUSD campuses during instructional hours.
The announcement comes after months of conversations between PUSD officials and Gente Organizada, Public Advocates, ACLU, and local students. Although Gente Organizada youth organizers have been pushing for the change for the last three years, renewed interest on the action came on the heels of a recent report on racial profiling practices among Pomona police. PUSD and Gente Organizada plan on continuing discussions around developing systems for youth diversion and prevention that include potential updates to district policies on in-school interrogations or interviews of students by law enforcement.
“Our work is definitely not done. We are still waiting to meet with the Chair of the CA Senate Education Committee, Senator Leyva. We want to ask, what do you plan to do to address this statewide? Pomona youth and youth throughout our state deserve nurturing school environments free of policing.” - Iris Villalpando, Garey HS Alumni and Youth Board Member with Gente Organizada
Advocates are celebrating PUSD’s decision as a shift in philosophy away from punitive and policing practices for youth in schools and towards more effective and supportive solutions. Among the promising initiatives in the works is a potential multi-agency investment in citywide pre-arrest youth diversion and prevention strategies. Earlier this month, PUSD Superintendent Richard Martinez, Pomona Mayor Tim Sandoval, and Tri-City Mental Health Executive Director Toni Navarro met with leaders from Gente Organizada to initiate plans to bring this to reality.
PUSD’s decision is also a signal that school districts are beginning to accept the research showing that school police do not increase school safety. For example, a 2013 Congressional Research Service report concluded that there was little evidence showing a connection between police officers in schools and changes in crime or student discipline rates. However, research has shown that, as schools increase their use of police, they record more crimes involving weapons and drugs and report a higher percentage of their non-serious violent crimes to law enforcement. According to a 2018 report from the Urban Institute, schools with predominantly Black and Latinx students are more likely to have CSROs on campus than schools with mostly white students. More recent studies have also shown that the presence of SROs was less likely to make students of color, particularly Black students, feel safer at school.
For more information on Gente Organizada’s work, please contact Jesus Sanchez at firstname.lastname@example.org
In 2016, youth organizers started an investigation about law enforcement presence on PUSD campuses as a reaction to the Pomona PD beating of Cristian Aguilar, a 16 year old, who was at the LA County Fair with his family. This led youth organizers to examine the PUSD budget and challenge expenditures on Pomona PD with funds that were meant for English Learners, Foster Youth, and Low Income students. In early 2020, youth organizers along with the ACLU of Southern California and Public Advocates released the Our Right to Resources Report, that uncovered a disturbing trend: more than 40% of the 136 school districts investigated were illegally spending funds meant for high-need students on law enforcement or other school hardening measures, costing more than a million high-need California students their right to tens of millions of dollars in positive supports and services.
Pomona Unified’s action follows that of other school districts that have reduced or eliminated school police departments. In February, L.A. Unified School District’s Board of Education approved a plan that cuts a third of its SROs, bans the use of pepper spray on students, and diverts funds from the department to improve the education of Black students. And in June of last year, the Oakland Unified School District board unanimously voted to eliminate its school Police Department while in Portland, Ore., the public school superintendent announced campuses would no longer have school resource officers regularly on campus.