March for Racial Justice

Hundreds of protesters carry signs along the march route during the March for Racial Justice, held on Wednesday, June 17. The march started at Veteran’s Park where Black members of the community first shared their experiences and its impact on their lives, and then looped around the downtown before coming back to the park.

Madison Metropolitan School District and the City of Madison have agreed to end the Student Resource Officer program at the district’s four comprehensive high schools.

According to a Cap Times story from June 24, the board will vote on Monday, June 29, to end the contract. If the contract is ended, it will come with support from City of Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway.

The contract with the City of Madison Police for the SRO program, last approved in June 2019 with a 4-3 vote, was met with opposition from community groups including the Freedom Inc. Youth Squad, according to the Cap Times story. When it was approved, options for ending the contract early were included, the Cap Times story states.

The national call to remove police from schools has increased after the death of Minneapolis man George Floyd during an arrest where former officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck for almost nine minutes. In the protests across the country that have followed in the last month, a common request was removing police officers from schools.

Black students receive a disproportionate number of citations and arrests in comparison to the percentage of the district’s demographics they make up, the Cap Times story stated.

In place of City of Madison police officers in schools, union Madison Teachers, Inc., requested the district hire student services staff to fill gaps.

In a news release from June 24, board president Gloria Reyes called the safety and well-being of every student in the district “a tremendous” responsibility. According to a June 9 Cap Times story, Reyes had previously been against removing police from schools, but recently changed her mind.

“As leaders in education, we recognize that now is the time to intensify our commitment to dismantling systemic racism by addressing inequities that only serve as mechanisms of division, and this decision is a significant step,” she said in the June 24 statement.

In a press conference, Rhodes-Conway announced that the city and district had agreed to end the SRO program, saying that funding needed to be redirected away from police, to new forms of student support.

"Local community organizers have been calling for the end of the SRO contract, citing significant racial disparities, school-based arrests and citation," she said. "Ending this contract, effectively removing SROs from schools, is a first step in addressing this disparity.”

Email reporter Kimberly Wethal at kimberly.wethal@wcinet.com and follow her on Twitter @kimberly_wethal.​