The Christian Science Monitor Daily for April 20
As the verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial was read out Tuesday afternoon, a tide of emotion swept through those gathered in front of the Minneapolis courthouse: relief, resolve, hope. But among them all, perhaps one was most conspicuous: rejuvenation.
Monitor photographer Ann Hermes is there, and as I talked to her amid honking car horns and shouts of solidarity, she noted that the mood was not happy. George Floyd is dead, and there is no joy in imprisoning the police officer now convicted of murdering him. Rather there was a sense that, at last, a historic moment of racial tension has resolved in justice for the Black community. And that only adds energy to a movement that now feels just maybe a nation might be truly listening.
Tomorrow, we’ll begin our coverage of what the verdict means for race relations in America. And among those pieces will be a photo essay by Ann in which she hopes to capture this rejuvenation. In years of covering such events, she has never before seen such a resolve among community groups to push on, to be heard. And today that cascaded through the streets of Minneapolis. “There were a lot of tears,” Ann says, “but it was energizing. A verdict finally went in a direction they were hoping for.”
In Minneapolis, many students and teachers say theyhave felt on edge after the murder of George Floyd. On Tuesday, a Minneapolis jury found former police officer Derek Chauvin guilty on all counts. Students are among those who have been protesting in nearby Brooklyn Center. There, the nightbefore high schools resumed in person classes last week, DaunteWright, a former Minneapolis Public Schools student who is Black, was shot and killed by a white police officer.
For the school district in the middle of this, the events of the past year have required a rethinking about safety. The MPS school board voted last year to end its contract with the police department, and has swapped school resource officers for a cadre of civilian safety specialists. It’s one model for keeping students safe and reflects the steps being taken by a shaken city as it seeks to embrace justice and fairness in its institutions.
“For a lot of people, what happened on May 25 is still in their head every minute of every day,” high school senior Nathaniel Genene says, referring to the day Mr. Floyd died.
Update:A Minneapolis jury found Derek Chauvin guilty of all charges in the murder of George Floyd on Tuesday afternoon.
When Nathaniel Genene walked into his Minneapolis high school last week for the first time in over a year he quickly noticed that there was no uniformed police officer standing watch.
“Usually when you walk in SROs are the first thing you see and the last when you walk out,” he says, using the abbreviation for school resource officers.
Mr. Genene, a senior at Washburn High School, served as the citywide student representative on the Minneapolis school board last year.
In Minneapolis, where police department contracts with Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) date back to the 1960s, a new cadre of civilian safety support specialists is now in place. And despite challenges here from events outside school doors the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin, the death of Daunte Wright during a traffic stop in nearby Brooklyn Center some students and staff say that the security culture is slowly becoming strengthened by being more inclusive of students who have asked to remove officers for years.
It’s a window on one model for keeping students safe and reflects the steps being taken by a shaken city as it seeks to embrace justice and fairness in its institutions. It also comes with its own share of controversy, with several principals writing in anopen letterthatstudents had been placed in “grave danger”andthat the school boardhad “burned a fragile bridge” by viewing the entire police department in a negative light.
MPS leaders are “responding to calls from students and community, which is really important,” says Katie Pekel, a former principal and director of the Minnesota Principals Academy at the University of Minnesota. She points to research indicating students, especially from historically marginalized groups, view SROs less favorably than administrators. Chauvin. On Tuesday afternoon, a jury found him guilty of all charges in the murder of Mr. Floyd.
Students are also among those who have been protesting in nearby Brooklyn Center, where the nightbefore high school students returned to in person classes last week, Mr. Wright, a former MPS student who is Black, was shot and killed by a white police officer. Monday, students across the city participated in a statewide teen led walkout to protest racial injustice.
For the school district in the middle of this, the events of the past year have required a rethinking about safety. “We’re trying to change how we deliver education, how we meet our kids where they’re at, how we meet their parents where they’re at. That’s a whole systems change that has to happen,” says Jason Matlock, director of emergency management, safety, and security for MPS.
Undergirding the district’s approach is an attempt to better understand why security personnel were called on in the past and how conflicts can be resolved in ways other than bringing in police officers. “We still have to change that whole mindset and that whole feeling of when and why people ask for that type of intervention,” says Mr. Matlock, who notes that in previous years, SRO arrests were often based on staff, parents, or other students in the building requesting assistance in instances such as fights. In a nearby suburban system, arrests droppedafter a similar shift from SROs to the use of “safety coaches.”
“For a school to send a message of distrust right at the doorway is now something that schools are trying to avoid; they don’t want to send that message. They want to send a message of welcome and belonging,” saysPeter Demerath, associate professor in the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Minnesota, who studies school culture and school improvement.
Khulia Pringle, a Minneapolis resident and former teacher in St. Paul who served on the interview panel for the district’s new safety support specialist positions, says that the mindset around security should also shift away from emphasis on mass school shootings which she believes are less of a threat in her community and toward solving conflicts between individuals.
“For me, I’m coming from a Black perspective, and nine times out of 10 what’s unsafe has to do with interpersonal relationships and someone from the community can deter that,” says Ms. Pringle, who also advocates on behalf of parents as hermes briefcase replica
part of the National Parents Union.”Hire ex convicts who’ve been in the system and can relate to people. Elders in the Black, Indigenous, Latinx communities are very, very important. If you want to create safety in the schools, all you have to do is bring in the grandmas.”
A new roleIn the 2019 20 school year, MPS contracted with the Minneapolis Police Department for a $1.1 million annual contract for 14 SROs. Those officers were assigned to cover the district’s more than 32,000 students, across high schools, middle schools, and elementary schools. The district says the role is not intended to be a direct replacement of SROs.
“I wouldn’t say there are any similarities other than they do support our emergency management and security functions when necessary. But they are civilian. They are not armed, they don’t carry handcuffs or pepper spray or any of those tools, they’re not uniformed, and they have no power of arrest,” says Mr. Matlock, the district’s security director.
Last June, before the school board vote on SROs, Mr. Genene and other students put together an online survey for current and former students. Of more than 2,000 respondents, 88% of current MPS students supported removing SROs from schools and 97% of former MPS students approved.
“I’ve had students express this idea in the past that they walked down the hall and feel like they had a target on their back or sat in the lunch room and felt like the SRO was looking over their shoulder while they were eating,” Mr. Genene says.
Survey respondents said they instead wanted increased mental health services, restorative justice practices, and more school counselors, social workers, and teachers of color.
A few students wereconcerned about removing officers. “I feel very unsafe with everything going on and even before all of this I was scared that every day I stepped into school. a school shooter would come to our school,” wrote one respondent.
For Dane McLain, a world history teacher at North Community High School, ending the contract with the Minneapolis Police Department made many students across the city feel more cared for and therefore safer, even though the SRO at North was individually popular and remains the school’s football coach.
“I think all schools should be representing love and care for students first and foremost. If a student isn’t feeling that way, and if an SRO isn’t contributing to that and I heard and learned from students that most SROs do not that pushed me to support the end of the contract.”.