Oakland School Board votes unanimously to eliminate its police force by 2021

A sign painted on the ground reads "Black sanctuary = police-free schools" with people in masks behind the sign.
Oakland students, teachers, parents, and community members rallied for police-free schools in front of OUSD headquarters on Monday, June 22. Photo by Tony Daquipa.

The Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) Board of Education voted unanimously to approve the “George Floyd Resolution to Eliminate the Oakland Schools Police Department” last night. At some point in 2021, Oakland public school children will attend police-free schools.

As school districts across the nation are cutting their ties with external police departments in response to anti-police brutality protests, the OUSD School Board capitulated to the will of thousands of students, parents, educators, school administrators, and community members by voting to completely eliminate its own internal police department. 

“I just want to say that the community is hella happy right now,” announced Student Board member Denilson Garibo during his Student Board Member’s Report, which followed the vote on the George Floyd resolution. Garibo, who was participating in the online Board meeting from a watch party hosted by the Black Organizing Project (BOP), is a recent graduate of Oakland High School who will be attending Long Beach State University where he plans to study Political Science.

BOP has been engaged in this struggle throughout the past decade, and although they are celebrating the victory, they know that there is still much work to be done. 

“We made history,” said BOP Member Leader Desiree Mims during a press conference the day after the Board meeting. “But we will not stop here,” she added. “We ask that you keep the pressure on.”

When students “return” to school in the fall, there will still be a schools police department. However, the district now has to initiate an “inclusive, community-driven” process to figure out the details of eliminating the department by August 21, 2020. A report back from that process is due to the Board by August 26, 2020. 

The original version of the George Floyd Resolution, introduced on June 10, required the inclusive, community-driven process be initiated by July 17, 2020 in order to eliminate the school police department by the start of next school year on August 10, 2020. 

Under the resolution approved on Wednesday night, the school police department does not have to be eliminated until December 31, 2020 “or soon thereafter as legally permissible.”

The specified intent of the resolution is to “eliminate the sworn law enforcement employees of the Oakland School Police Department and to reimagine how to keep district students and staff safe.” Fifty-six of the non-sworn, unarmed members of the department are expected to be retained in the employ of the district in roles that have yet to be negotiated.

The resolution also instructs Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell to identify funds that could pay for such positions as school-based case managers, social workers, psychologists, restorative justice practitioners, academic mentors and advisors, culture and climate leads, or other mental or behavioral health professionals.

Unconscious or implicit bias and anti-racism trainings will also be mandated for all OUSD staff and board members under the resolution. 

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1021 represents the 56 School Security Officers (SSOs), two Fingerprint Technicians, and one Dispatcher who, in addition to the 10 sworn police officers, will be impacted by last night’s decision. The SSOs are expected to be retained, but moved to another department. 

SEIU’s Donneva Reid said that “history was definitely made last night.”

She thanked BOP for doing a great job in leading the fight to move funding from armed police towards “services that are going to positively impact students who were getting left behind.”

To that end, Reid says that SEIU will be working with the District and BOP to evolve the SSO job description and to further develop a training plan that focuses more on conflict resolution, restorative justice practices, and “other supports that kids need to thrive.”

“SSOs are the first people that kids usually see,” Reid said.“They’re the ears and eyes of the school site. They know what’s going on. They are passionate about the kids, and they want them to succeed.”

Wednesday night’s historic vote was the culmination of BOP’s decade long “Bettering Our School System” campaign that was started in the wake of the OSPD killing of Raheim Brown on city streets in the Oakland hills in 2011.

A man who said he represented the family of Raheim Brown called in to the Board meeting to support the resolution and thank BOP for their efforts.

Back on March 4, the OUSD Board refused to cut three positions in the School Police Department on a night when they cut $18.8 million from elsewhere in the budget.

Recent nationwide events helped BOP change the Board members’ minds over the past few weeks. Oakland activists, in the midst of a global pandemic, rallied around BOP’s campaign by helping to lobby school board members and Superintendent Johnson-Trammell.

Emails and phone calls were made. Over 27,000 people signed an online petition. Car caravans and youth-led marches took over the streets of Oakland. Peaceful protests were held in front of school board members’ houses as well.

The community’s efforts were not in vain. In announcing the historic agenda item for discussion at the meeting on Wednesday night, Board President Jody London thanked BOP for their efforts, saying, ”I feel very well-organized around this issue.” 

Author Profile

Tony Daquipa is a dad, essential bureaucrat, photographer, urban cyclist, union thug, wannabe stonemason, karaoke diva, grumpy old man, storyteller, and preserver of history.

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