Students in Portland, Oregon public schools ditched class on Wednesday to protest in front of City Hall against a plan to increase patrols of armed school resource officers in buildings.
The activist group “Don’t Shoot Portland” posted a video of students urging the Portland City Council to nix a plan approved by the school board to increase patrols to five days a week from the current four-day schedule, KTVL reports.
Students with the group followed up by walking out of class around 9 a.m. to grandstand against the decision, which still needs approval from the city.
The activists attempted to link the issue to the council’s first black member, Jo Ann Hardesty, who was sworn into office the same day.
— Genevieve Reaume (@GenevieveReaume) January 2, 2019
“Today is the day that Jo Ann Hardesty is sworn in, so hopefully if we can get this out on the same day, it’ll gain a little bit of traction” student organizer Sophia Lucas, a senior at Jefferson High School, told the news site. “We as PPS students are extremely disappointed in the school board’s actions and believe that police do not have a place in our schools.”
The agreement arranged by the Portland school board would require the district to cover the added costs and students with Don’t Shoot Portland apparently believe it’s a waste of money.
“I feel like it’s taking away funding from things that could actually increase a safe environment like psychologists and therapists,” student Mayah Garcia-Harper said in the YouTube video.
Jefferson high student Isabel Mace-McLatchie alleged schools are in shambles, and money would be better spent on fixing the facilities and hiring more teachers.
“Our schools are in disrepair. We don’t have as many teachers as we need. Classrooms are overcrowded. We don’t have paper. We don’t have books. We don’t have pencils. Computers are broken,” she said. “There are so many things we could be spending $5 million on instead of cops.”
Others in the video alleged the increased police presence is scary for illegal immigrants and minorities. The students demanded schools without police or violence, but did not offer any suggestions for improving school security.
“We have rights, and our right is to survive in school and learn without violence and without police,” student Brisa Ruiz said in Spanish.
She was apparently speaking for her entire community.
“Personally my community doesn’t feel safe having police, armed police, in our schools,” she said. “School is somewhere where we’re supposed to feel safe, and it’s a place where we’re just supposed to learn.”
Lucas told KTVL that school resource officers make students feel unsafe, contribute to discrimination, and create hostile and unsafe school environments, though she cited to evidence to support her claims.
“Stationing police officers in schools will further contribute to an environment of fear and distrust,” she said.