Education officials are reconsidering the South San Francisco Unified School District’s partnership with the local law enforcement agency and continuing an ongoing conversation about the future of the system’s school liaison officers.
The district board of trustees will meet on Thursday, January 21st, to discuss the placement of South San Francisco Police Department officers on local campuses and the prospects of progressive activists and members of the school community on the issue.
Local officials will continue their talks started last year after the murder of George Floyd, which sparked a national debate on the value of the programs and whether they feed the school into the prison administration.
South San Francisco officials signaled in August that they are in favor of a change in contract terms that will move two officers through district locations, but requested more information regarding the partnership before making a decision.
At the upcoming meeting, officials will be adding members to the Progressive Activism Group Change SSF, who have long criticized the school liaison office program and urged members of the school council to end the partnership.
Change SSF will repeat these calls at the meeting according to the presentation asking officials to end the liaison program and redirect it to other initiatives that are better tailored to the needs of the students.
Mental health services, undocumented family support, sex education programs, and additional counselors are among the programs that the Change SSF report said would be better suited for the school community in South San Francisco.
“The board must urgently urge the city council to invest money in effective programs that can work with the district to better serve students with appropriately trained staff,” said Change SSF’s presentation.
The school liaison program is funded by the South San Francisco Police Department, not the school district budget. Police Chief Jeff Azzopardi previously said his department has had a presence on the district’s campus for more than three decades and recognizes the partnership for building trust between the police and the local community.
“The program works for the South San Francisco Unified School District, the South San Francisco Police Department, and most importantly, the students attending our schools,” Azzopardi said in July when officials first examined the nature of the relationship.
Azzopardi is a staunch supporter of the program’s upkeep and said the district has never registered complaints with the department about the behavior of officials. He also suggested that trained local officers be preferred to patrol personnel who respond to calls on campus.
Similarly, a survey of 680 respondents found that members of the school community also made a point of having a section of officials trained to adequately address students’ problems.
“All police officers who work regularly or frequently with the school district should have some training in child development. Working with children and adolescents requires an understanding of problems and challenges in different age groups, ”was the highest-rated survey response from the school community.
The survey responses did not generally endorse the program.
“Keep the police out of our schools. The police should only be called if an alleged crime has taken place, ”another response criticized the program.
Students also participated in the program, according to a focus group report that recommended that officers more clearly define the role of police on campus.
Ensure that all members of the school community know what expectations are placed on campus officials; Developing a clear protocol for officers; Offering sales outlets for students who feel threatened by officials; Suggestions from student groups include tracking data on police-officer interactions that can be shared with the community.
After the data has been presented, the board will determine the next steps according to a district report to best support the needs of the students.
The South San Francisco Unified School District Board of Trustees is scheduled to meet at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, January 21. Visit ssfusd.org/onlineboardmeeting to follow or attend the meeting.