by TyLisa C. Johnson
While some students see school as a safe haven, “where you get that one meal a day, where you get to have mentors who don’t judge you,” other students — mostly Black or brown and disproportionately impacted by the presence of school police — live in fear.
“No one should ever feel as if they have a target on their back in school,” 18-year-old Rebekah Chikuni said.
Chikuni is a 2020 graduate of Upper St. Clair High School who on Monday was among hundreds of students, parents and schools advocates who called on Pittsburgh Public Schools’ board of directors to remove police from its schools, first at a rally, then in public testimonies at a school board public hearing.
School should be a place that nurtures students, promotes self-growth, Chikuni said, but with police in schools, “whether or not they’re armed or not, their presence in schools is toxic to Black and brown students.” Chikuni is a member of GirlGov, a program of The Women and Girls Foundation, where she helps lead the racial justice committee.
Nearly 300 people attended the school board’s Monday public hearing, where much of the public concern swirled around removing police from schools. Almost 250 people signed up to speak at the hearing, which prompted the board to split the meeting into two days. The second part of the public hearing will be held virtually June 23 at 2 p.m.
A Brashear High School parent testified at the hearing that she worried about what could happen in schools, “if you take the only protection our kids have away from them.”
“The violence that is building up in the streets will carry into the schools,” Michelle Hickey wrote in a testimony. “Who’s going to protect them? Who’s going to step in if a shooting happens? Who’s going to step in if a big fight happens? … These schools need to be protected from this crazy world we live in, not wait until it’s too late and then try to act on it.”
Demonstrators dance in spite of the rain storm during the protest in Oakland against police presence in schools (Photo by Jay Manning/PublicSource)
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