PUSD scales back role of police officers on local campuses
By André Coleman 11/14/2013
In what is being hailed as a milestone in the national movement to clog the school-to-prisons pipeline, the Pasadena Unified School District has scaled back the presence of Pasadena police officers on local campuses.
“If a crime is being committed, campus officials will call the police, but violations of the education code or school behavior will be handled by the district,” said Pasadena Board of Education President Renatta Cooper.
“Neither the Police Department nor the district want to criminalize youth,” Cooper said.
The change in policy is part of a new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the district and police, which prevents police officers from questioning children on campus without an adult present. The new MOU was approved by the Board of Education and the Pasadena City Council.
Police presence at several middle schools has already been scaled back, according to Cooper.
In 2011, police made 187 “contacts” with high school and middle school students for alleged offenses that ranged from petty theft and burglary to battery and assault with a deadly weapon, which can include fists and feet.
Law enforcement and school officials have been unable to provide an exact number of students arrested as a result of those contacts.
In one incident, a teenage boy at Pasadena High School caught passing a forged permission slip was detained and questioned without a school administrator or his parents present. Also that year, three teenage boys at John Muir High School, where 29 percent of the students are African American and 66 percent are Latino, were arrested in two separate incidents.
One of those altercations involved an alleged assault on an officer by a 14-year-old Latino youngster. The second incident involved two 17-year-old children — one African American and one Latino — who were arrested for fighting.
The change in operation came as schools across the nation continue to struggle with the so-called school-to-prison pipeline, in which the troubles typically involving students of color at school become police matters instead of school issues, often resulting in fines and incarceration. In some cases, children as young as 7 have been arrested and tried for misbehaving at school.
“I have to give Chief [Phillip] Sanchez a lot of credit,” Cooper said. “This is a major shift in philosophy. We have taken a much stronger child advocacy role.”