The Madison, Wisconsin teacher’s union, Madison Teachers Inc. (MTI), has changed its stance on school-based police officers and is now advocating for police to be taken out of the city’s main high schools and replaced with thirty-three additional support staff.

This is the first time that Madison Teachers Inc. has demanded the removal of police officers, but it is not the first organization to do this. For four years, Freedom Inc., an organization that “engages low- to no-income communities of color,” and others have advocated for the Madison School Board to end its contract with the Madison Police Department. They claimed that the presence of the officers negatively affects students of color, especially when looking at the rates of citation and disproportionate arrests.

Although there have been efforts to take police out of Madison schools for four years, these efforts have not been successful. The School Board renewed its’ contract with school resource officers on a vote of 4-3 last June. Yet, the new three-year contract gives the school district the option to reduce the number of officers employed. Additionally, by Wednesday, the board can decide to vote to reduce the number of officers from four to three and by September 15 they can decide if they want to cancel the third year of the contract.

In a statement, the Madison Teachers Inc. said that they “see the systematic racism that exists in our current structures and join the voices of our students and our community in calling for dramatic change in how we educate and interact with all of our students, especially those most marginalized in our schools and society.” Considering the protests against systemic racism and police brutality, MTI claimed that their change in opinion centers their “students’ needs.”

Although MTI has historically supported police at their schools, they have come to the conclusion that “the benefits of having police officers stationed inside our schools is outweighed by the racialized trauma experienced by some of our community members of color.”

Yet, MTI will only support the removal of these officers if certain other positions are staffed. Their demands come from the recommendations by the American Civil Liberties Union. This would mean that schools would be required to hire:

  • One counselor, one nurse, one psychologist and four social workers for East.
  • One counselor, one nurse, one psychologist and five social workers for La Follette.
  • Two counselors, one nurse, one psychologist and five social workers for Memorial.
  • One counselor, one nurse and seven social workers for West

MTI, in their reasoning, said that if they remove “police officers from our schools, but do not adequately staff those same schools with social workers, nurses, counselors, and psychologists, we are perpetuating harm upon our most vulnerable young people.”

Adding these thirty-three new staff positions could be a challenge though, as budgets continue to shrink and the state may cut funds for school aid due to COVID-19.

MTI is also demanding that the district also provide crisis intervention training and commit to a “social-emotional learning that is culturally relevant to the needs of our children and not a canned curriculum geared towards compliance.”

Sources: Wisconsin State Journal 06/08/20, American Civil Liberties Union 06/08/20

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