D.C. Council Votes to End Police Involvement in Public School Security

D.C. councilman David Grosso (I.) Screenshot from Twitter
July 8, 2020

Local lawmakers in Washington, D.C., voted Tuesday to end the city police department's involvement in providing security for public schools.

D.C. police have managed the public school security contract—which provides more than 300 guards for public schools—since 2004 and have provided training to private security guards. School officials will now be responsible for contracting security, coordinating safety plans with police and the local Homeland Security agency, as well as training security guards with a "positive youth development philosophy."

In June, five D.C. city council members pushed to cancel the security contract entirely in response to protests calling for reforming and defunding the police following the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Instead of removing the security presence from schools, Tuesday's vote shifts responsibility for the school security contract from the police to public school officials.

At-large councilman David Grosso (I.), who led the charge to disapprove the public school security contract with Security Assurance Management, said Tuesday that "funding is better utilized when educating students and supporting their behavioral health."

"The District of Columbia, along with the rest of the nation, is re-examining the role of police in all aspects of our lives, including in our children’s schools," Grosso said in the resolution he filed last month challenging the contract.

D.C.'s Metropolitan Police Department was put in charge of public school security in 2004 after a student was shot and killed inside Ballou High School.

The Tuesday vote was long advocated by the Black Swan Academy, a nonprofit that claims on its website that D.C. police "criminalize" black youth in schools.

"The police that are killing Black people in the streets and harassing Black youth in the community, are the same police that are in our schools," the website says. "Police do not keep students safe. Their presence increases the likelihood that Black youth will be criminalized, arrested or imprisoned for adolescent behavior or responses to trauma."

But D.C. public schools chancellor Lewis Ferebee said many students have a good relationship with the guards and resource officers contracted through the police department.

"What's interesting is when we talk to our students some of the most positive relationships they have are with the school resource officers," Ferebee told DCist. "And we have a great working relationship with [local police] to ensure those people are appropriately trained and are fostering positive relationships in our students."