SAN JOSÉ, Calif. (KRON) — San José’s largest school district is the latest to join other school districts in the city to remove police officers from campuses.
Last week, the San José Unified School District Board voted 3 to 2 to not renew its contract with the San Jose Police Department.
For nearly a year, students and parents protested against officers at district middle schools and high schools.
“The staff brought forth the recommendation after looking at our survey data from our constituents, some focus groups that were done by a subset of trustees,” said District Superintendent Nancy Albarrán.
“The recommendation was to continue that partnership as part of our safety plan components and the board made a decision to not renew that agreement.”
But after mounting pressure from advocates, students and the San José Unified Equity Coalition led to the board deciding to end its relationship with SJPD — ultimately removing school resource officers (SROs) from district campuses starting next school year.
Albarrán tells KRON4 News she understands the concerns raised over the last year with police reform but reassured that the district’s SRO program was a successful partnership.
“In San José ’s case we didn’t have any formal complaints against our officers or the program that we were implementing here in the district,” said Albarrán.
“However we also felt that our program was working successfully and we were navigating a very complex issue successfully here.”
But others say having police officers or SROs protects schools from potential harm.
“We live downtown and our neighborhood elementary school, prosteution is on the rise, it’s right in front of it,” said Diego Barragan, whose child attends Herbert Hoover Middle School.
With in-person classes set to return in two months, there are some who are concerned with how the district will adjust its safety measures.
“And these campuses are open, anyone can walk on, and I’m really really concerned given that we want to return to normalcy and by doing this, we’re not ensuring that when they [students] come back that it’s going to be a return to normalcy.”
San José Unified with more than 28,000 students, now joins Alum Rock and the East Side Union High School districts last year voted to remove SJPD officers from their campuses.
San José Planning Commission Chair, who represents East Side San José, whose own children attend San Jose public schools, is urging the SJUSD board to reconsider their decision.
“I always thought this was an overly simplistic way to deal with a complex issue, we can’t ignore the fact that communities of colors, such as mine, have been feeling some level of pain and fear for years.”
“But equally you can’t discount the fact that law enforcement is a very important part of our community in terms of keeping it safe.”
Bonilla says completely eliminating the presence of police officers is a “grave mistake that can be different in saving lives in a live shooter situation,” and as the city continues to mourn the lives lost in the VTA shooting.
“As a parent of three small children in a public school in San Jose, I want to know that my kids are protected by the San José Police Department,” said Bonilla.
“I don’t want my teachers, staff, principals, and administrators all of a sudden figure out how to turn into SWAT teams to protect kids when they themselves need to worry about protecting their lives in the process.”
With classes set to begin soon, Albarrán says the decision to remove SROs from district campuses is not ideal but that the district will adjust.
“We are working with that decision to see what adjustments need to be made at our schools and in our safety plans to be responsive to this new direction that the board would like to go in.”