Columbus City Schools announced Tuesday they will form a working group by the end of the month to discuss safety and security in the district – including possibly ending their decades-long contract with the Columbus Division of Police.
Alison Holm has more.
In the wake of demonstrations against police brutality in Columbus and around the country, Columbus City Schools are facing calls to sever ties with the Divsion of Police. 2,500 people signed a request to the district last week, and demonstrators marched outside school board president Jennifer Adair’s home.
In a statement on the district’s website Adair and Superintendent Talisa Dixon acknowledge the demand, and said the contract is “open for discussion”.
But at Tuesday’s online board meeting, members heard from more than a half dozen graduates and others who want to see the contract ended, and the money spent elsewhere. Rama Dahlawi is a Whetstone High School graduate who says the district has staff better qualified to help students.
“How about mentors, social workers, psychologists, nurses, therapists, counselors – these people are trained to resolve conflicts in the best way possible. If kids need to be disciplined, why not use community service as a way to inspire and teach them? The money spent on these officers could be allocated to more necessary and beneficial resources for these students.
In the current school year, the district has spent $1.3 million dollars on 19 armed police officer, in addition to the district’s own unarmed security staff. Parent Raquel Walker, herself a CCS graduate sees no role for the police in resolving student conflicts.
“That is a task that should be administered through administration as well as security officers. Now, when we allow the police officer to actively discipline children then we’re sending the wrong message. Then they are there for intimidation. Intimidation and fear. That’s not going to build a stronger relationship with the police. When we send that type of message we’re telling our children: ‘this is not a safe environment’.”
Board President Adair says the district is not currently negotiating its contract with the Columbus division of Police, which expires June 30th. Instead, she’s forming a working group of community members, students and people interested in the “holistic picture” of safety and security in the district.
“And we want to have meaningful dialogue to ensure that any system that is in our buildings not only protects our students and staff and community, but is also done in a equitable and fair way, that addresses issues of systemic racism…. These are all very real, and this board is committed to looking at that.”
Adair says she encourages people to contact her about participating in the working group.