What Is the Rush In Approving the PCS Law Enforcement Agreement in Pinellas County Schools?
In February, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (“LDF”) proposed common-sense revisions to a proposed agreement between the Pinellas County School Board and 13 local law enforcement agencies regarding how police interact with schoolchildren. Many local organizations (including the PTA, the local NAACP chapters, LULAC, labor, and a coalition of nearly 50 local congregations) urged PCS to adopt these revisions. Unbeknownst to LDF, local law enforcement agencies have quietly worked with the school district to veto much of the community-supported revisions. The school board will vote on this law enforcement-approved revision of the agreement at their July 27, 5:00 pm School Board Meeting even though students, parents, educators, and community members have not had a meaningful opportunity to review the latest draft and weigh in.
At the last-minute community stakeholder meeting, the school district hosted last week (which appears to have been invite-only and unpublicized), LDF asked the school board to postpone their planned July 27 vote on the agreement to allow the community to review the latest draft and give meaningful input. The school board has yet to grant this request and appears to be moving forward with the vote. Teaching for the Culture believes it is important for the school board to hear the perspectives of students, parents, educators, and other community members so that they may make an informed decision.
While the new draft is a step in the right direction, it does not go far enough. Here is LDF’s comparison of the law enforcement-supported draft to the community-supported version.
Notable community-supported improvements:
- Requires parents/guardians to be notified if a student is arrested
- Bans racial profiling
- States that FL law prohibits zero-tolerance policies from being “rigorously applied to petty acts of misconduct”
Why it doesn’t go far enough:
- It rejects the proposed requirement that arrests, uses of force, and questioning by law enforcement only be done at school as a last resort or in the event of a safety threat, essentially allowing law enforcement to supplant the role of educators in addressing student misbehavior.
- It rejects clearly defined limits on when educators should involve law enforcement. Schools should contact law enforcement if there is a safety threat, a situation involving criminal conduct of persons other than students, and when otherwise required by FL law. Instead, the law enforcement-approved latest draft would require schools to report even minor non-violent misconduct to law enforcement and give law enforcement sole discretion on whether to arrest a child at school for any behavior that can be construed as a crime (e.g., a five-year-old taking his neighbor’s pencil).
- It rejects most of the community-supported revisions that would have required parents to be involved when law enforcement engages with a child, when a student’s information is shared with law enforcement, when a student is questioned by law enforcement, and when a threat assessment team and law enforcement make decisions about a student.
Why Should You Care?
On June 25, 2019, ACLU Florida prepared a document that compares Pinellas County to other districts. Pinellas County has the highest number of students arrested for disorderly conduct in the state and among the top 10 districts for the highest rate of police citations for students.
How Can You Help?
Did you know that law enforcement can interrogate students without notifying their parents?
We believe that the Pinellas County School Board should allow students, parents, educators, and community members to review an updated draft of their agreement with law enforcement. The community needs to understand the importance of this agreement and the intentional changes made to the previous draft. As the new draft of this agreement is a step in the right direction, we are asking the School Board to not rush this vote and make intentional steps to educate the community about this agreement.
(The electronic public comment is now closed)
Bianca amplifies the voices of the oppressed through intentional national advocacy. A self-taught coder, Bianca’s transition to education was born out of a passion to teach children in Title I schools how to code. Her advocacy work has been featured on ABC Action News, Yahoo, Bay News 9, Florida Channel, and other various media outlets. Her work empowers and equips families to curate safe social spaces for themselves and their children.