Minneapolis Public Schools has severed its decadeslong relationship with the city’s police department in response to the death of George Floyd in police custody.
The school board voted unanimously Tuesday to terminate the MPD’s contract to provide school resource officers. The district will cease further negotiations with the department and Superintendent Ed Graff must come up with a new plan for school safety by the board’s Aug. 18 meeting.
“I value people and education and life,” school board chairwoman Kim Ellison said in an interview. “Now I’m convinced, based on the actions of the Minneapolis Police Department, that we don’t have the same values.”
“I firmly believe that it is completely unnatural to have police in schools,” school board member Kimberly Caprini said during the meeting.
In a statement, MPD Deputy Chief Erick Fors said they will continue to work with MPS on security and safety issues.
“The relationships that were built were impactful not only for the students and staff, but for the officers who had a calling to work with our youth through mentorship and engagement.”
The Minneapolis and St. Paul school districts have long faced criticism over the use of school resource officers, with both seeking to transform the role to be more of a mentor than an enforcer. In 2018-2019, a Minneapolis Public Schools survey gave mostly positive marks to the officers, but the data also showed that school cops had more interactions with black students than their peers.
The state’s third-largest school district has contracted with Minneapolis police since 1967, a district spokeswoman said, except from 2004-2009, when it worked with park police. Under the current contract, the district was paying Minneapolis police $1.1 million annually for its services.
Earlier Tuesday, a few hundred people — including Democratic U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar — gathered outside the district’s headquarters to voice support for the move.
“Police brutality doesn’t just happen in the streets here in Minneapolis. It happens in our schools,” Omar said. “Enough is enough.”
A group of North High School students spoke against the removal of school resource officers. Their school resource officer, who is also their football coach, is “like a father,” they said.
“With SROs being gone, nobody’s going to feel safe at school,” one of the students said. Board member KerryJo Felder offered an amendment during Tuesday’s meeting to give North and Henry high schools the option to keep their officers. It failed.
Ellison noted that police response time will be slower without school resource officers if an incident occurs. But, she said, this is a matter of values.