The Kern Education Justice Collaborative, a local education equity group, has started a petition that calls to de-fund the Kern High School District Police Department.
The petition went live less than one week before the KHSD is set to vote Monday on its budget for the 2020-21 school. As of Friday afternoon, the petition had 579 signatures. KEJC is trying to get 1,000 signatures.
The organization is advocating to have funds allocated to the police department to instead be reallocated to other services, such as hiring additional counselors, school-based social workers, psychologists, mental health clinicians and nurses; hiring diverse educators that reflect the student population; implementing Ethnic Studies; hiring restorative justice practitioners; and removing police from all restorative justice models and Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports.
KEJC is not the first to advocate for a school district to de-fund campus police. On June 2nd, the Minneapolis Public School Board voted unanimously to terminate its contract with the Minneapolis Police Department in response to the death of George Floyd. This decision has led to many other school districts across the nation to reevaluate their relationship with the police and adopt similar measures.
“We are at a critical moment where we must redefine school safety, take a step towards progress, and invest in restorative practices and programs that are rooted in racial justice and equity for our black and minoritized students,” the petition says.
The Kern High School District has its own police department. The district employs 28 officers, one lieutenant, and once chief of police. For the 2018-19 school year, the district’s budget for its police department was around $4 million.
On the other end, KHSD currently employs 310 individuals dedicated to addressing the mental, emotional, and academic well being of students. These positions include school counselors, social workers, school psychologists, interventionists, mental health clinicians and more. The district’s budget for these support professionals is around $35 million, which is about 7.7 percent of the district’s overall 2018-19 budget.
Although the district allocated more money to mental health services than it did to its police department, KHSD was still spending more money per employee at the police department than it was on mental health personnel.
With 30 police employees, the district spent a little more than $133,000 per employee. With 310 mental health personnel, the district is spending a rough estimate of about $113,000 per employee. (These numbers do not indicate salaries for employees.)
At KHSD, there are 123 counselors for more than 40,000 students. This comes out to a ratio of 328 students per school counselor. Other ratios include 1,628 students per social worker; 1,503 students per school psychologist; and 1,954 students per mental health clinician.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which advocates to ban school police, reported that 1.7 million students in the U.S. attended schools with police but no counselors.
There will also be a board meeting on Monday at 7 p.m., where the budget will be voted on. KEJC is encouraging community members to submit public comment.
In order to submit a public comment email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (833)827-3708 and leave a voicemail up to three minutes. If leaving a public comment remember to submit no later than noon on Monday, June 29.
The meeting will be live streamed at KernHigh.org.