PORTLAND, Ore. -- Oregon’s largest school district said Thursday it will discontinue the use of school resource officers in its schools in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd.
The announcement makes it one of a handful of districts from Minneapolis to Denver that are taking a closer look at the role the police officers play in their schools.
Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero said on Twitter that Portland Public Schools needed to “re-examine our relationship” with the police in light of the national outrage over the death of George Floyd, who died after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes.
The district of more than 49,000 students joins Minneapolis, which severed ties with its school resource officers on Tuesday. St. Paul, Minnesota, schools and schools in Denver are considering doing the same as protests continue nationwide over Floyd's death.
“The time is now. With new proposed investments in direct student supports (social workers, counselors, culturally-specific partnerships & more), I am discontinuing the regular presence of School Resource Officers,” Guerrero said in his tweet. “We need to re-examine our relationship with the PPB.”
The news came after thousands of protesters gathered on Wednesday for the sixth consecutive night in Portland and remained peaceful. Gov. Kate Brown on Thursday ordered all flags flown at half-staff to honor Floyd, a handcuffed black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee to Floyd’s neck.
Thousands of protesters who gathered for the sixth consecutive night of protests in Portland, Oregon remained peaceful.
The Portland Police Bureau said Thursday that a crowd estimated at 10,000 or more dispersed by 2 a.m., and there were no major issues.
Gov. Kate Brown on Thursday also ordered all flags to be flown at half-staff to honor George Floyd, the handcuffed black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee to Floyd’s neck during an arrest.
In Portland, a small number of what police described as “select agitators” stayed downtown into the early morning hours, setting small fires and vandalizing businesses. Officers had cleared the streets by about 4 a.m., authorities said in a statement.
Police Chief Jami Resch thanked the peaceful protesters and said her officers will continue to identify and arrest those who are causing damage.
“Tonight was a great example of a safe and responsible demonstration. This speaks to the testament of the thousands of participants and sends a powerful message. I greatly appreciate the community for expressing themselves while respecting others,” she said.
“We have witnessed a pattern of behavior in the past several days where select agitators remain and target the police, engage in crimes, and cause disorder. We will continue our efforts to identify, arrest, and hold responsible those who engage in crimes in our city.”
The use of armed school resource officers in educational settings has been a contentious one.
Beyond their law enforcement role, the model for school resource officers endorsed by the U.S. Justice Department enlists them also as mentors, informal counselors and educators on topics ranging from bullying to drunk driving with the goal of promoting school safety.
But critics of the concept say the officers' presence can also lead to the criminalization of students, particularly students of color, who may be labeled as troublemakers for things such as not paying attention in class, using a cellphone or other minor infractions. In 2015, a school resource officer in South Carolina was caught on video flipping a female student to the floor and dragging her across a classroom after she refused to surrender her cellphone.
Nationwide, 43% of public schools had an armed law enforcement officer present at least once a week in the 2015-2016 school year, the last time the National Center for Education Statistics released data on this topic.
The officers work closely with school administrators, who are encouraged to reach understandings with officers that disciplinary issues short of anything illegal are to be handled by school officials.