Antioch School Board approves funds for six on-campus police officers by expected 3-2 vote

The AUSD office building was taped off, but some protesters still showed up, posted signs and pounded on the doors and walls according to one witness. However, the school board members and district staff were not there for the continued meeting on Thursday night, August 6, 2020. Photo by Fernando Navarro.

Futile protest outside school district building as board members met elsewhere Thursday night

“The money we spend right now for private security…the cost for six SRO’s is pretty much what we spend already (for private security)” – Trustee Gary Hack

Details will be worked out by Sept. 23 deadline on the school district-city Memorandum of Understanding

By Allen Payton

During their continued meeting that was interrupted twice by protesters, Wednesday night, the Antioch School Board voted 3-2 to approve spending $378,000 per year over the next three years to match the city’s share of the federal grant for six School Resource Officers (SRO’s). The action will place one sworn Antioch Police Officer on each of three middle schools and three high schools in the district. As expected, Trustees Crystal Sawyer-White and Ellie Householder cast the dissenting votes, because both had previously made public comments at last week’s city council meeting against the SRO’s. The City had until Sunday, August 9 to accept the $750,000 three-year grant. (See meeting video on YouTube) (See related article)

Although protesters again showed up at the AUSD office building, pounding on the walls and doors, according to one witness, their effort was futile as the board members and district staff were not there for the online meeting, Thursday night, according to Board President Diane Gibson-Gray.

Public Comments Continued

Superintendent Stephanie Anello continued reading public comments submitted for the meeting.

“I’m a recent AUSD graduate of the Class of 2020,” wrote one member of the public I am asking you to vote no on the six school resource officers. Listen to us who will be most affected. SRO’s mainly hurt black and brown kids.

Jerelle Wilkinson, whose wife is a teacher in a Title I school, urged the board vote no on spending money on SRO’s. He incorrectly claimed the City of Antioch spends 62% of the city budget on police. (The police budget is 62% of the General Fund which makes up 44% of the city budget. Police spending is actually only 27.3% of the overall city budget).

As a 31-year employee of the Antioch school district I am full in support of the SRO’s. Please hear our need for safer school sites,” wrote a staff member.

Janet Wesenhagen, a staff member at Antioch High School, wrote in favor of the SRO’s. “Often times we get complaints of police response times. Having a police officer on campus will solve that.” She wrote that having officers on campus makes parents feel safe about sending their kids to school. “If the campuses are not safe will anyone really apply for AUSD? I’m here to shout out from the rooftop I am in favor of placing SRO’s on the campuses.”

Destiny Parker-Roles wrote in favor of the SRO’s. “Many are just saying what the alumni page are saying. Those who do have children in AUSD schools are urging you to vote yes, tonight.”

“I have to go back to school and want to be safe,” a student wrote. “Please vote yes.”

Quincy Plumber wrote, “I was picking up my student the night the shooting happened at Deer Valley. It was chaos. Please vote yes.”

“Please vote for our children, not for a political agenda,” wrote another parent.

“There mere presence was largely intimidating,” a recent graduate wrote against the SRO’s. “

Robert Young, an AUSD staff member wrote, “I would urge the board to ask several questions of where will the officers be stationed? How far off campus will their authority extend?”

A parent of an incoming high school freshman wrote, “Having an SRO present…may deter bad behavior that often causes a bad distraction. At a time when budgets are being cut I see it as a privilege of being offered this grant.”

Bernice Gutierrez wrote, “Videos show how SRO’s have aggressively hurt students when handcuffing them.”

Ellie Householder has an agenda that calls for defunding the police and calling city council members

“I know firsthand having police on campus makes a difference. I now have two kids in middle school. I can’t believe we don’t have cops on campuses,” wrote another member of the public.

Teresa Ward, a former Antioch High School student from 2003 to 2008 wrote of her experience with an SRO and getting a year of probation for a fight. “The cops never tried to create a relationship with students.”

Jamella Jackson Walker has students in AUSD schools wrote in favor of the SRO’s and the good experience her children had with police officers on their campuses.

“I wonder what does Householder want to be when she grows up? I just read she thinks officers protect students at sporting events but doesn’t think they can protect students for six or seven hours a day,” another member of the public wrote and supported the SRO’s.

“These students aren’t animals they just get treated that way. Do your research. We need counselors, not cops. Wake up and vote no,” wrote another person.

“Householder grandstanded on the Jonathan Parker homicide. It is clear she does not take the family’s concerns seriously,” wrote another member of the public.

Megan Watson, a long-time resident of Antioch wrote against hiring the SRO’s. I graduated from Deer Valley High School 10 years ago and nothing has changed. Instead of being met with violence from these SRO’s…work toward hiring more counselors.”

“People get discouraged from coming to school with so much police presence,” another student wrote.

“Please bring back SRO’s to our schools,” wrote another member of the public.

“Please protect our students,” wrote another. “I’ve heard some AUSD trustees calling the SRO’s ‘Trump cops.’” They asked the school board members to keep politics out of their decision.

Rachel Deit wrote, “the last thing we need on AUSD campuses are police. This is not how we should be spending our money.”

“It is terrible to think the district would prioritize money for police on campuses. Students should not be perceived as criminals,” wrote another person.

Stephanie wrote, “It’s time to put students first. SRO’s don’t make students safe.”

“It’s a complete denial of the Black Lives Matter movement,” wrote another member of the public against the SRO’s.  We see where our school board members’ priorities lie.”

“A lot has happened since (the shooting of Jonathan Parker),” wrote another. “We are in the midst of a civil rights wave in which people of color say police don’t make them feel safe. We need to listen to each other. Bringing the police into the schools full-time is like dropping a bomb in your house because of a rat”

“All of you encouraged this, that’s why I’m confused about some of you making comments on social media and at the council meeting against the grant,” wrote another. “We need good people on our campus to keep students safe.”

Tony simply wrote, “No more policing.”

Celestine Press, a staff member, wrote in favor of the COPS grant for the SRO. “That’s what we’ve been asking for. I attended several meetings in which parents and even two school board members demanded this. My son is a student athlete said, ‘maybe it will make kids think twice before starting a fight. I bet Deer Valley would feel like a more peaceful place.’”

“The school to prison pipeline was not mentioned by anyone when people were talking about safety earlier this year,” wrote another member of the public.

“Shame on you, Trustee Householder for criticizing the district for not having enough safety when Jonathan Parker was shot, then you changed your position for political gain,” wrote another.

Another wrote about how the hiring of SRO’s goes against the Black Lives Matter movement.

Another member of the public wrote about how students couldn’t trust Antioch Police due to the hiring of Officer Michael Mellone who shot and killed a homeless man in San Francisco in 2016 before being hired by the Antioch Police Department, again, last year.

Fabby Camacho wrote against placing police officers on AUSD campuses.

Natalie Gutierrez wrote, “wanting to put SRO’s in school campuses is a frightening idea.”

“As a secondary educator in the Bay Area I’ve been able to work with teams of SRO’s,” wrote another in support of the SRO’s. “SRO’s help support the climate” on a campus. “Building positive relationships with students…at sporting events and dances…creates a safe place for children to learn.”

Gretchen Tofflemeir wrote, “Students need counselors not police on school campuses. Where are all these matching funds coming from? Antioch School Board do the right thing.”

Edgar Romero, “I go to AHS and I’m all in support of SRO’s. Students won’t like it but they will think twice before bullying other students.”

“I can’t imagine having an armed officer of the law on campuses,” another wrote. “Hire three officers at the high schools. But don’t place them at the middle schools. These are children who do stupid stuff.”

“I grew up in Antioch and I teach in Antioch and someday my children will attend school,” wrote another. “The officers had no positive impact on me. It served as a vehicle for me to think I want to a dangerous and terrible school. What my students need now is access to more support staff.”

Jennifer Johnson wrote, “Please vote yes. It wasn’t long ago that some board members were calling for more police officers on campus. Now they’re against them.”

“Police presence on campuses present more harm than protection,” wrote another.

“Ellie and Crystal, I wish you all would stop being so divisive,” wrote Velma Wilson. “Ellie you were at the meeting where the Chief talked about this grant and you were all for it.”

“Please keep our students safe by denying this grant,” wrote another member of the public. “Many black and brown youth…should not see their abusers when they show up on school campuses.”

Lucille Meinhardt wrote, “School districts money should go to counselors.”

“I was appalled when I learned that there were no officers on school campuses,” wrote another.

“AUSD has counselors but not SRO’s. Antioch…should have both,” wrote another member of the public.

Antonio Hernandez, school board candidate, wrote against the SRO’s. “Cops on school campuses are not an effective solution. Academic achievement is a much better indicator of school safety. We will have to spend over $3 million for this grant.”

Patricia Granados wrote, “How confident are you all having police officers on campus will benefit students? Bridge those gaps but not by hiring police officers for school campuses.”

“Police officers can’t be the only response we offer to trouble students,” wrote another. “Our students need support and compassion. Why does a kid need to end up in jail before seeing a mental health counselor? We also need to put the responsibility…on our teachers. I urge you to think more creatively.”

Sandy Rogers, President of the Deer Valley PTO wrote in favor the SRO’s. “We should be working together to be improving our schools and our city.”

Laura Young wrote about the district receiving a grant for 10 counselors. “To this day I remember our SRO, Dan Sweeney,” when she attended Antioch schools.

Board Members Deliberate, Approve Six SRO’s

Chief T Brooks was on the line and available to answer questions of the board members.

Trustee Mary Rocha spoke first and was ready to make a motion, but Sawyer-White wanted to discuss the matter, first and Gibson-Gray allowed it.

“As the only African American on the school board, this is unbelievable we wouldn’t want to discuss this,” Sawyer-White said. “Number one, we’re in a pandemic, why the urgency? Will this be put on hold, Chief Brooks?”

“No. This grant has a deadline by August 9th,” Brooks responded.

“If we’re still distance learning where will these officers be?” Sawyer-White asked.

“That is something we have to discuss. Even with distant learning teachers and staff will still be having contact with students. So, if there’s some kind of crime or sexual activity…the officer can respond to their house and respond to the situation,” Brooks explained.

Sawyer-White then spoke of “an alternative safety plan” from the Black Organizing Project in Oakland Unified School District.

“Is there a charge for their services?” asked Board President Gibson-Gray.

“I’m not aware of it,” said Sawyer-White.

But, Gibson-Gray said it could not be discussed further since the idea was not on the agenda.

“Will these SRO’s have the authority to arrest students in the classroom?” Sawyer-White asked.

“All sworn officers in California have the authority to make arrests,” said Brooks.

“I’m concerned we’re not hiring parents on school campuses of people of color…who do not have a gun,” Sawyer-White then said.

“I kept a tally of the speakers of the documents that were read. The yesses were 43, the noes were 32, so we’re split,” said Trustee Gary Hack. “I assume that accepting SRO’s on campus is not addressing all of it. But it is an answer. The money we spend right now for private security…the cost for six SRO’s is pretty much what we spend already.”

Trustee Ellie Householder wrote, “I think the thing that’s weighing on my heart…is what happened, yesterday and what’s happening, I assume at the district office, and that’s youth standing up and asking us to vote no on SRO’s. It goes to show how deeply concerning having police on our campuses is. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to be a young person watching videos of officers brutalizing people then seeing armed officers walking through the halls between classes.”

The evidence given by Superintendent Anello is that Brentwood have SRO’s and we used to have them. I haven’t seen…how these SRO’s are going to directly impact the students.

There was a significant decrease

There is not a single documented case of an SRO preventing a school shooting,” she said. “The last thing I want to say, ideology aside, philosophy…we just cut $1.8 million in classified staff. Then to revert around and hire…it’s disrespectful to our classified staff. We need a comprehensive safety plan…like restorative justice. Unequivocally, our Antioch Police need to be part of that plan. We need cops at after school events, undoubtedly. But not patrolling the

Sawyer-White then thanked for Chief Brooks for attending and suggested having events aside from school events, like dinners on Saturday nights. We need YMCA’s we need

Rocha then asked, “Everyone was yelling at us that it was a safety issue. At this time, we have the opportunity to have a federal grant that was processed back in February. We already are spending $250,000 for private security. We don’t we go for the six and then moved approval.”

Gibson-Gray seconded the motion.

Sawyer-White then said, “Right now we don’t have a homeless liaison.”

Gibson-Gray then interrupted her and said “:e have a motion on the floor.”

Householder asked Rocha to clarify her motion.

“My motion was to approve the SRO grant…and to accept all six SRO’s,” Rocha responded.

Gibson-Gray then seconded it, again.

“We cannot be collaborative. This is the only thing on the agenda. I don’t know why you don’t want to discuss it, Trustee Rocha”

“I still want to discuss it,” Gibson-Gray said.

“But she doesn’t want to discuss it,” Sawyer-White responded.

“Point of order. It says on the agenda, the district and city would negotiate an MOU. Can the motion be just to approve the SRO’s?” Householder asked.

“I did send in questions to the superintendent and Chief Brooks and asked them not to answer, but answer us all at once,” Gibson-Gray said.

“I keep hearing the $1.8 million in cuts” then spoke of the governor’s May revise. “Can you tell us, how that’s going?” she asked of Anello.

Assistant Superintendent Jessica Romeo responded instead saying, “since the action was taken by the board on the classified layoffs there have been changes. It absolutely did impact extra employees. Six instructional assistants have had their layoff notices rescinded. We created three new registrar employees. Two of our impacted employees have been placed in those positions. Finally, as far as a rescind, we did rescind the print shop and records. We have rescinded about $500,000. We have also placed about 20 individuals into positions in the district. We have two individuals…who chose to retire, and we have three individuals who chose to continue with the layoffs. We are still working with some individuals…to see if sites will use their funds differently. I’d like to say six of seven, but that changes every day.”

Householder then asked, “Since we paid for STM, the private security…from our supplementary concentration grant funding…since we’re talking instead of entering a separate contract with APD, will we be using” the same funds?

“It does not necessarily have to come from the same funding source,” Romeo responded.

Gibson-Gray then asked about how many guidance counselors saying, “We currently have 31 counselors.”

“Yes. With the 14 mental clinicians, that brings us to 45,” Anello said.

“Are these mental health specialists,

“They have at least a master’s degree in social work or marriage and family counseling, etc.,” Anello responded.

Gibson-Gray then asked about how many homeless students are in the district.

“I don’t see how going over blow by blow the homeless population is pertinent to the agenda item,” Householder said.

“It is a question I heard,” Gibson-Gray stated. “How many of our students need permanent shelter.”

“We have 23 students who are currently, temporarily unsheltered,” Anello stated.

Gibson-Gray then asked Chief Brooks about community policing model and what the SRO’s would be doing with students.

“Community engagement…that will be included on our school campuses,” he responded. “Play sports with them, hang out with them during lunch. All the feedback I’ve received back from our students, our parents and even our officers has been extremely positive. The vast majority of the work of our officers on campuses will be building relationships. Be able to resolve conflict…with the hopes of encouraging young men and women…to see that the people who wear these uniforms are just human beings and have feelings.”

“Can you tell me how the hiring works…if we approve the grant,” Gibson-Gray asked.

“The school resource officers will be officers we already have on the source, they will have to apply for the program,” Brooks responded.

“Will someone from the district be involved in the hiring process, perhaps even a student?” Householder asked.

“There is the possibility of getting people from the school district and even the possibility of having students involved in the process,” stated Brooks.

“How long will it take…to get into the schools from today?” Gibson-Gray asked.

“If we choose all six, my hope is to have three this school year and three the following school year,” Brooks explained. “We generally don’t hire in clumps of people So, as officers are brought on to the force and they complete their field training, we can fill that position for the officer who becomes an SRO.”

Gibson-Gray then asked about the impacts on the SRO program of vacancies in the police department.

“I think we can keep up with attrition without impacting the school resource officers. Once we assign someone to the SRO that’s what they’ll be assigned to unless something extreme happens,” said Brooks.

“Will you be willing to bill the district quarterly, not in advance?” asked Gibson-Gray.

“That is a discussion that would have to involve the city manager and the city finance director,” Brooks responded.

“If this isn’t working for us, can we stop the grant?” Gibson-Gray then asked.

“We can ask for a modification,” Brooks explained. “That would have to be approved by the DOJ (U.S. Department of Justice).”

“I feel if we decline the grant, as the City of Antioch tries to go for more COPS grants, I don’t think it looks good for us,” Gibson-Gray stated. She then asked for a six-month review.

“There’s a stipulation in the grant that a semi-annual report is required,” Brooks explained.

Sawyer-White then said, “My suggestion is that the students want to be inclusive. Would the board be open to a student safety task force…working together with the youth to be inclusive?”

“Yes, of course we’d be willing to survey the youth,” said Anello.

“Not to survey, but to actually establish a task force,” Sawyer-White responded.

“That’s something that can be discussed,” Gibson-Gray said.

“The MOU has to be completed no later than September 23,” Brooks stated.

“So, we have some time,” Gibson-Gray said.

She then called for the vote with Hack, Rocha and Gibson-Gray voting in favor of the grant and district expenditure for the six SRO’s and Sawyer-White and Householder voting against.

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AUSD building & protesters 08-06-20

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