Student group: Get police out of Portland schools

Group claims officers disproportionately target minority students

Portland Student Action Network put banners up at Lincoln, Jefferson and Cleveland high schools calling for the school board to remove police officers on campus, May 8, 2017. (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A group of students hung banners outside several local high schools on Monday, calling for police officers on campus to leave.

Portland Student Action Network put banners up at Lincoln, Jefferson and Cleveland high schools. They’re calling on the school board to remove 12 school resource officers, claiming they create a hostile environment and make them feel afraid.

“We decided we were sick of it and wanted to launch a campaign against them,” Yosha Kness, with Portland Student Action Network, said on Monday.

The group claims school resource officers disproportionately target minorities.

“Police in schools create a hostile culture and inhibit students’ ability to feel safe. PPS does not release data on interactions or arrests between officers and students. However, discipline data, student experience and national statistics reveal that black, Latinx, and Native American students are disproportionately targeted by school police. In-school arrests happen with frequency and inflict lasting trauma and embarrassment on students. SRO’s uphold the school-to-prison pipeline, funneling students from the classroom into the juvenile justice system. Our education system should strive to empower students, not suppress and terrorize them. PPS must end the presence of armed police in our schools and handle behavioral issues through intervention, mediation and counselor support.”

But other students who spoke to KOIN 6 News said the officers actually help make them feel safer. Each officer is assigned to work with students at multiple schools covering K-12 in one part of the city, meaning they’re never just at one school.

Police say arrests are rare for those officers, and that they often deal with families, handle abuse cases and problems involving social media, bullying and harassment. They also participate in community engagement and outreach programs.

“You have people saying, ‘We want police to have better relationships with young people,’ but at the same time they’re saying, ‘We don’t want them in our schools,'” Portland Police Bureau Sgt. Pete Simpson said. “You can’t really have it both ways.”

Portland Student Action Network has a “Police Out of Schools Rally” planned for Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. outside Portland Public Schools headquarters in North Portland.

The student group will also present a list of demands for the school board.