Dear Oakland Community,
On Wednesday night, OUSD’s Board of Education unanimously voted to adopt the George Floyd Resolution. As a result, I have directed my staff to move forward to implement disbanding the OUSD Police Department by the end of 2020 and to start the process to develop an alternative plan for school safety. The resolution calls for the planning process to begin by August 21, 2020.
I stand strong in my resolve to reimagine school safety and positive school culture without school police.
As an educator, I know that our students and staff must be safe - physically and emotionally. School safety is the foundation of a positive school culture in which all students are held to high academic expectations so they can truly thrive.
In reflecting over the past few weeks, it has become even clearer to me that we must answer this call and this moment in a way that fundamentally transforms how we operate as a school system and community. Police in schools are ultimately a symptom of much larger issues. If we are going to really make progress, it is not enough to merely remove the symptom. We have to transform the underlying conditions within the school system that have brought us to this place in the first instance.
OUSD has been a pioneer in many ways around transforming school culture:
- Our mission and vision for building community schools recognizes the necessity of meeting students’ social-emotional and health needs as the basis for college, career, and community success.
- Our nationally recognized Restorative Justice and trauma-informed initiatives have helped the district greatly reduce suspensions and create alternatives to traditional school discipline.
- Our nationally recognized African American Male Achievement initiative, which relentlessly focuses on improving academic and ultimately life outcomes for black students, gave birth to the Office of Equity to focus on issues of disproportionality among AA, Latinx and Asian Pacific Islander students.
In THIS moment though we must advance our work around improving the culture of our schools.
With the energy and focus of our community behind us, we can deepen partnerships with other government agencies and nonprofits to build cross-sector coalitions. We can rethink how we use city resources - together with district resources - to address the root causes of disproportionality.
Our next steps.
We must remember that the creation of a thoughtful and inclusive process for developing an alternative safety plan is far deeper and more complex than just the removal of school district police. It will require the ongoing commitment of all OUSD educators--certificated staff, classified staff, both at school sites and the central office as well as our students and families. Together we have to change our practices. We have to transform our organizational mindsets and behaviors towards Black and Brown students and families.
The work will be difficult, but together, we can build safe, healthy and welcoming school environments that promote academic excellence for all our students in a way that builds on our deep restorative justice roots, strong foundation of community schools, and critical partnerships throughout the city.
Looking forward to the work.