OAKLAND, Calif. (KRON) – Two school shootings within a month in the Oakland Unified School District are putting on-campus safety in question. Some city leaders continue to be against the idea of school police. Others haven’t made up their minds.
After last month’s shooting at James Madison Middle School in Oakland, KRON4 spoke to some city councilmembers about bringing back the school police in OUSD. Here’s what they had to say.
Councilmember Sheng Thao: “Any solution that puts more guns in schools is out of balance.”
Councilmember Treva Reid: “I think we need to sit down and have that conversation with the parents.”
Councilmember Loren Taylor: “I am not so sure we want to run back to creating a stand-alone police department.”
A month later, in the wake of another OUSD shooting that injured six people including students and staff, the positions on the subject of school police remain the same for two of those councilmembers. However, one of them, Loren Taylor, is leaning into the idea of having police on campus.
“We absolutely need to have armed officers on campus to respond to situations like this,” he said. “And to gather the intelligence necessary to be ready and hopefully prevent these situations from occurring.”
Back in 2020, the OUSD Board of Education disbanded its school police department. The district now employs culture keepers, formerely known as security guards, who perform a number of tasks including maintaining order and safety.
“With regard to exactly what we’ve done at the school to protect students, to protect staff, to protect campus, I can’t get into that right now. This is something we are discussing internally, and of course we’re reviewing what was in place,” said OUSD Spokesperson John Sasaki.
OUSD student directors had this to say about safety on campus at this recent schoolboard meeting:
“There’s been a lot of past events that has been happening at our school sites. Many of our students have felt extremely unsafe at their schools. Students should never have to express that they feel unsafe. Every school site should make the utmost effort in order to ensure the safety of our students and staff,” said Linh Li, a student director with OUSD’s Board of Education.
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For Councilmember Taylor, ensuring safety on campus means adding a police presence but doing it without unnecessary overhead.
“My conversation with the staff from the district is to have dedicated officers from the police department that are focused on the schools there ready to respond so we get the safety, security, and support without the overhead of an independent department,” he said. “What I am not sure about is whether we should be investing all of the overhead to have the administration and an entire department within OUSD.”
The OUSD Board of Education has the sole authority over any decision regarding safety and security on its campuses.