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Education

Groups Call For Austin ISD To Shift Money From Policing In Schools To Building Community

A police officer walks through the hall of LBJ High School in 2016.
Gabriel C. Pérez
/
KUT
A police officer walks through the hall of LBJ High School in 2016.

As the school board finalizes its FY2021 budget, racial justice advocates are calling on the Austin Independent School District to move money away from policing.

The Austin Justice Coalition and other groups are asking the board to divest from what they consider "excessive funding" for school police departments – that includes not filling vacancies or increasing the number of school resource officers. In place of the “punitive disciplinary system,” AJC wants money to be redirected to practices that emphasize "community building and the inherent wholeness and value of every person.”

According to its website, the AISD Police Department employs "84 full-time police officers including 43 school resource officers, 20 patrol officers and two mental health officers.” There are one or two SROs at each middle and high school.

In a letter to the district’s superintendent, board and community, the groups also asked for more transparency and accountability. They call for the AISD Police Department budget to be published online, along with its policies and data – especially those related to the use of force. 

The letter cited concerns that historically "SROs respond to incidents involving Black students and students with disabilities with escalated practices, without regard to whether these students pose actual threats.”

The letter was cosigned by the Texas Criminal Justice CoalitionIntercultural Development Research Association and Educators in Solidarity.

In a separate resolution, AJC calls on the district to release data about when pepper spray, tasers or other weapons were used in schools. It also seeks information on how many times students were issued a class C misdemeanor complaint, arrested or referred to juvenile probation. And it wants to see all of that data broken down by the student “race, gender, socioeconomic status, English Language Learner status, Special Education status and grade.”  

The AISD Board of Trustees is holding a public meeting to discuss and approve the budget Monday night.

Got a tip? Email Sangita Menon at smenon@kut.org. Follow her on Twitter @sangitamenon.

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