Community members raised red flags about cops in schools at the Tuesday Minneapolis school board meeting before the board approved an extension of a contract with the Minneapolis Police Department.
Speakers at the meeting, including representatives from Minneapolis NAACP, cited concerns about school resource officer (SRO) training and the culture that the officers bring into the bulidings.
"SROs hail from the Minneapolis Police Department," said Minneapolis NAACP President Nekima Levy-Pounds at the meeting. "I could stop right there, because we all know that there are significant concerns surrounding racial disparities in terms of how officers are engaging in racial profiling amongst people of color, including youth of color, in our community."
The Minneapolis board's extension of the SRO contract raises the district's cost by approximately $75,000, due to a salary increase in the SROs' union contract.
The St. Paul school board just approved a new SRO contract in August.
Discussion among board members prior to the vote volleyed between some who were encouraged by the opportunities in the extension and others who were concerned about SRO's impact in buildings.
"There's definitely agreement that we need a comprehensive overhaul of our system to address social-emotional needs of students," said board chair Jenny Arneson. "We've been starting that process but it is clear that we are not yet done."
Minneapolis community activist Al Flowers said to the board during public comment that if SROs are removed, a concrete solution has to be in place. After the meeting, he said he hasn't heard about any problems with SROs.
"If something happens to our kids when you remove them, then I'm going to come back and say, 'I told you so,'" he said at the meeting.
Davina Newman approached the board with her brother, Lukas Stigen, who's 4 years old. She's a senior at Highland Park High School in St. Paul, but her brother is in the Minneapolis district's High Five program — and she said she's hoping he'll be able to stay there.
She wants data on SRO contact with students. Her wish for her brother: he won't attend school with cops in full uniforms, tasers and squad cars, she said. She said at the meeting that she hopes it will happen by the time he reaches high school.