SAN JOSE, CA – The Santa Clara County Office of Education (SCCOE) has launched a report examining the status of school policing in the county in 2016. The School Policing Report is the first report of its kind in Santa Clara County, and was in response to a request made by County Superintendent of Schools Jon R. Gundry and the Santa Clara County Board of Education (SCCBOE).
According to SCCBOE President Dr. Michael Chang, "This is an important issue to the Board, in many ways this is just the foundation, and we have a significant road ahead. We want to clearly define the roles of police and school administrators in keeping schools safe."
Superintendent Gundry, who conducted a similar report when he served as the superintendent of Pasadena Unified School District, recalled two expulsion hearings that came before the SCCOE Board early on in his tenure that were a consequence of over-reaction by law enforcement that resulted in unfair discipline.
"In a particular case, an officer escalated a situation with a foster youth student regarding her possession of a cell phone. When the officer initiated physical contact to confiscate the phone, the student physically lashed out because she had been physically and sexually abused," said Superintendent Gundry. "It is important we avoid criminalizing adolescent behavior because of the significant impact it has on academic and social-emotional success."
Deputy Superintendent Dr. Mary Ann Dewan provided a School Policing Report update at the SCCBOE meeting on April 19. It included a summary of the results, next steps for developing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between policing agencies and school districts, and the anticipated release date for the report. "It is important to better understand the day-to-day practices of school-based police and about the policies and guidelines under which they operate," according to Dr. Dewan.
The objectives of this year-long study were to understand school policing as it relates to students with disabilities; examine the availability of support staff and service delivery models to support students; identify best practices for student discipline utilized by site administrators, school resource officers (SRO), and counselors; and, review the availability of relevant training for site staff.
National data revealed that an arrest doubles a high school student's likelihood to drop out of school, and subsequent court involvement increases that risk. Data also suggests that student-police interactions disproportionately impact low-income students, students of color, and students with disabilities. Twelve states in the US have laws requiring training of SROs, and California is one of those states.
According to Dr. Dewan, "changes in policy and practice are underway, and there is a great deal to celebrate. Schools throughout Santa Clara County are engaged in purposeful hard work to implement improved practices and developing safe, healthy, engaging school communities."
The findings show that in Santa Clara County, exclusionary practices are reduced, suspension and expulsion rates are down, citations on campus have decreased, and the number of incarcerated youth have steadily declined.
The model MOU is undergoing final reviews with San Jose Unified, Campbell Union High, and East Side Union High School District, which should be complete by the end of this week, at which point it will undergo one final review with the city attorney. The MOU will be executed at the district level with the San Jose Police Department, and the SCCOE will share the MOU with other school districts and police departments as a template for county-wide benefit.
The full report will include survey results, information collected through student focus groups, expert interviews and document review, describe best practices, and provide information to help schools, students, and communities.
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