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No Police in Schools: GRPD out of the GRPS Campaign begins

August 5, 2020

Alex Vitale, in his important book, The End of Policing, states:

While the origins of school resource officers (SROs) can be traced back to the 1950s, there was a dramatic change in their number and focus in the 1990s, thanks in large part to the Justice Department’s “Cops in Schools” program, which gave out $750 million to hire 6,500 new school-based police.

Police and policing in schools, particularly in urban schools has been a major source of contention for some time, primarily because policing in urban schools has been a major component of the school to prison pipeline. Like community policing, school administrators will tell you that having cops in schools is about safety, but the reality is that it is just another form of control and punishment, particularly directed at Black and latinx students.

However, with the current national conversation about policing, there is an opportunity to do away with part of the school to prison pipeline, getting cops out of schools completely. New legislation in both the Senate and the House have been introduced to get police officers out of schools permanently. This legislation is called the Counseling Not Criminalization in Schools Act

However, as with any legislation, local communities do not have to wait for federal legislation to be passed. The group Grand Rapids for Education Justice (GREJ) has just announced a new campaign to get cops out of the GRPS. Part of the reasoning from GREJ was the direct result of the used of public school buses to transport members of the GRPD in early June, cops who were in downtown Grand Rapids to suppress the resistance to police violence.

Another major reason for the GREJ to demand that the GRPS end any and all relationships with the GRPD, is because the GRPD was named as a partner in an upcoming program for 2020-2021 called the Academy of Public Safety Services, which will be held at the Ottawa Hills High School location. The Academy of Public Safety Services would introduce students to policing as a career, where the GRPD would have direct access to students. Not much else is known about this program, as the GRPS has not provided many details on this academy.

The GREJ has initiated an Action Alert and called it the GRPD out of the GRPS. Here is the text of that Action Alert:

We are demanding that the Grand Rapids Public Schools discontinue any relationship they have with the Grand Rapids Police Department (GRPD). We know that the GRPD has officers come in to GRPS schools and that the district approved a plan to have an Academy of Public Safety Services in Ottawa Hills HS for the 2020-2021 school year, which would involve the GRPD presenting to students about careers in policing.

The GRPS should end any current relationships they have with the GRPD, along with not entering into any relationship with the GRPD in the future. We are making these demands in solidarity with the larger Black Lives Matter movement, which is also calling for a defunding of police. The GRPD has a long history of violence against the Black community and since there are a disproportionately large number of Black students in the GRPS system, we believe that demanding an end to any relationship with the GRPD is what solidarity looks like. GRPD Out of the GRPS! Black Lives Matter!

To add your name to this campaign to get and keep the GRPD out of the Grand Rapids Public Schools, go to this link https://actionnetwork.org/letters/grpd-out-of-grand-rapids-public-schools?source=direct_link&, then share the link on social media and help get the word out.

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