UPDATE: On Wednesday morning, the School Board advanced this effort. Stay tuned for more details.
Seattle Public Schools superintendent Denise Juneau on Tuesday announced an effort to suspend the district’s partnership with the Seattle Police Department for one year, echoing the moves of several large school districts across the country.
Juneau said the Seattle School Board will consider a resolution Wednesday that would “re-evaluate our relationship with SPD and enact a district-wide one-year suspension.” Seattle School Board president Zachary DeWolf says he expects a draft of the resolution to pass A final vote is to occur June 24.
The partnership, started in 2008 after the shooting deaths of five teenagers, involves four armed “school emphasis officers” stationed across Seattle schools: South Shore PK-8, Aki Kurose Middle School, Denny International Middle School and Washington Middle School. A fifth “school resource officer,” also armed, is stationed at Garfield High School. The school emphasis officers had not arrested students since the inception of the partnership, district spokesman Tim Robinson said.
“While the focus of the School Emphasis Officers has been to build relationships and provide assistance to youth in crisis, the unintended consequence of their presence in our buildings could bring more distress to our young people,” Juneau wrote in a district announcement.
“While these officers do not do any kind of enforcement, they are armed in our school buildings, and I know that at this moment in time, the presence of an armed officer prohibits many students and staff from feeling fully safe and welcome in our buildings.”
Reached late Tuesday, SPD Sgt. Lauren Truscott said she had no immediate comment on the district’s move.
Before Tuesday’s announcement, district officials faced mounting pressure to change something. At a youth protest Friday, students demanded that SPS remove the officers from schools. On Monday, the Seattle teachers’ union, the Seattle Education Association, echoed that call. Outside the Puget Sound region, over the past week and a half, school districts across the country — including Portland Public Schools and the Minneapolis School District, located in the city where a white police officer killed George Floyd — made similar announcements.
“In the year and a half I’ve worked at SPS, I’d say this issue that has engendered the most letter-writing activity to the board,” said Robinson.
The announcement came less than a day after the district learned the Police Department had been using the parking lots of three school buildings as staging areas for their response to protests. The district issued a swift condemnation Tuesday from its social media accounts, saying Juneau had taken action to halt the practice.
“These are spaces for student learning and supports, not for militarized responses,” read a post on the district’s official Facebook.
Staff writer Katherine Long contributed reporting.