Education

Activists want police officers out of Wake County public schools

Video shows police officer slamming female student to the ground

A video posted Jan. 3, 2017 on Twitter appears to show a police officer body slamming a female Rolesville High School student in the wake of a large fight at the school.
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A video posted Jan. 3, 2017 on Twitter appears to show a police officer body slamming a female Rolesville High School student in the wake of a large fight at the school.

Local activists urged the Wake County school system on Tuesday to remove police officers from schools and replace them with more counselors, following a viral video earlier this month that showed an officer slamming a Rolesville High School student to the floor.

The nine-second video of a school resource officer lifting a student into the air and dropping her to the floor has brought international attention to the role of police in schools. Activists said Wake should respond by immediately ending the regular presence of police officers in schools.

They said police should only be called to a school when there’s an emergency, such as a violent situation. Speakers at a Tuesday news conference said Wake should begin by reducing the number of school resource officers by half over the next year.

“We don’t want those individuals who have the power to arrest and to interrogate the students in the school buildings,” said Fernando Martinez, a community organizer with the Education Justice Alliance. “We want the school district to invest in what we call peace builders. We want them to invest in school counselors.”

Letha Muhammad, a leader of the Education Justice Alliance and Ramiyah Robinson, a senior at Southeast Raleigh High School, tell reporters that they're not overreacting by saying police should be removed from schools.

Wake school leaders reiterated their commitment Tuesday to review the district’s agreement with local law enforcement agencies on school resource officers. School board Chairwoman Monika Johnson-Hostler said it’s unrealistic to ask for police officers to be immediately removed from schools, noting how many other districts also have school resource officers.

Johnson-Hostler said she was pleased that Rolesville Police Chief Bobby Langston placed the officer in the video on paid administrative leave while the incident is under investigation,

“They (Rolesville Police) responded in a way that would be important for school board members and our community to say alongside of them that this is something that we do take seriously and will address,” Johnson-Hostler said.

For decades, the school system has contracted with law enforcement agencies to provide an armed officer at every high school and more recently at most middle schools. School resource officers provide security, speak in classes and mentor students. There are more than 60 school resource officers in Wake.

Under a 2014 agreement between the school system and law enforcement agencies, school administrators have the primary responsibility for maintaining order in schools and responding to disciplinary matters. But it also says school resource officers may intervene to ensure the immediate safety of people in the school “in light of an actual or imminent threat to health or safety.”

Some activists have been calling for the removal of police from schools for several years, including filing a federal civil rights complaint in 2014 over Wake school policing practices.

The agreement also says school resource officers are supposed to receive training in areas such as working with students with disabilities and special needs, cultural competency and nondiscriminatory administration of school discipline.

Some activists have been calling for the removal of police from schools for several years, including filing a federal civil rights complaint in 2014 over Wake school policing practices.

But activists are seizing upon the attention to a video posted on Twitter on Jan. 3 showing Rolesville Police Officer Ruben De Los Santos picking up Jasmine Darwin and dropping her to the floor before leading her away from a crowd of students at Rolesville High School.

An attorney for Darwin’s family says she had been trying to break up a fight between two other girls when she was “slammed on the ground like a rag doll” and suffered a concussion.

Speakers at Tuesday’s news conference said Wake should pay for Darwin’s medical bills and the cost of any therapy she might need. Speakers also said Wake should provide reparations for any other students who’ve been harmed by police officers in schools.

“One incident is one incident too many,” said Letha Muhammad, a Wake parent and leader of the Education Justice Alliance.

Social justice activists said incidents like what happened at Rolesville High are more common than people realize.

“Just because this time it was documented doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen,” said Ramiyah Robinson, a senior at Southeast Raleigh High School. “This time a student caught it on camera.”

Among the demands Tuesday, speakers said:

▪ Wake should spend more of the money used for police on hiring more school counselors;

▪ Wake should provide more money for restorative justice programs;

▪ Wake should revise the agreement between the district and police so that law enforcement plays a more limited role in schools.

Johnson-Hostler said she agreed that more school counselors are needed.

“We do need more money,” she said. “We do need more counselors.”

Fernando Martinez, a community organizer with the Education Justice Alliance, explains the changes activists want made in Wake County schools following a video showing a police officer slamming a student to the floor. Open

T. Keung Hui: 919-829-4534, @nckhui

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