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Madison District Joins Movement To Remove Police From Schools


MADISON, Wis. -- One of Wisconsin's largest school districts has decided to stop having police officers stationed inside its school buildings. The action taken by the Madison district comes as the nation reckons with how law enforcement should be structured and utilized.

On Monday, the Madison School Board approved an immediate termination of its contract with the city's police department. Bianca Gomez is youth justice director with the group Freedom Inc., which had been advocating for such a move even before the police killing of George Floyd.

She said black students are unfairly singled out by school resource officers.

"We know that when our children are misbehaving or doing things that kids do, they're not seen as children, they're seen as criminals," Gomez said. "And having a police officer in the school whose job is to find and seek out criminals, they're going to automatically target black children."

According to school district data covering the years 2012-2016, black high school students in Madison accounted for more than 80% of arrests, despite only making up about 19% of enrollment. Opponents of removing police from schools say the training provided to these officers put them in a good position to handle certain situations that develop on campus.

But Gomez said in her group's eyes, community policing and other solutions haven't done anything to fix the issue. She said a police presence can be harmful to the well-being of minority students, and added that districts must enact transformative justice in schools. "Instead of punishment, instead of racist disciplinary policies and practices in our schools like zero tolerance, we're demanding a way of solving problems and solving social issues and solving harm without causing more harm," she said. She said that should include more mental-health evaluators.

In Minnesota, where George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer, some large school districts have severed ties with local departments. But not all districts are following suit. The Chicago School Board voted down the idea, though more discussions are planned by city leaders.

Mike Moen is the Morning Edition producer and serves as a staff reporter for WNIJ. Every morning, he works with Dan Klefstad to bring listeners the latest Illinois news. He also works with the rest of the news staff on developing and producing in-depth stories. Mike is a Minnesota native who likes movies, history, and baseball. When most people hear his last name, they assume he is 100-percent Scandinavian. But, believe it or not, he is mostly German.
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