Minneapolis, MN – Teachers and parents were outraged after the Minneapolis school board, who voted to do away with school resource officers (SRO) in June, was caught trying to hire 11 private security guards to fill the role previous filled by police.
The Minneapolis Board of Education voted unanimously on June 2 to cancel its contract with the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) in light of the death of 46-year-old George Floyd in the custody of that police department, the CityPages reported.
The school superintendent was supposed to have a security plan for the new school year in place but no information has been released.
Then the Minnesota Federation of Teachers (MFT) found an online advertisement for “public safety support specialists,” who are required to have a degree in law enforcement and experience working for a law enforcement agency, to break up schoolyard fights, monitor security at school events, and serve as a “a bridge between in-school intervention and law enforcement,” the CityPages reported.
The security guards will earn between $$65,695 and $85,790 per year, according to the advertisement that was posted for two weeks.
The teachers union was furious it had not been consulted on the plan to hire former police officers to replace the SRO staff, the CityPages reported.
“When we said we didn’t want any more SROs, any more police officers in our buildings, we did not mean, ‘hire a bunch of private security officers and put them in our buildings,’” MFT President Greta Callahan said. “Let me ask you a question. If I order a sandwich, and I say, ‘Hold the mayo,’ does that mean put a bunch of Miracle Whip all over it? They’re missing the point.”
The schools have used school resource officers to keep students safe for more than 50 years.
The teachers union demanded that the school district stop the security guard hiring process and involve the public in the safety plan, the CityPages reported.
“It sounds like you’re getting rid of the police and you’re hiring your own private security force. So what we’re about to have is a bunch of [George] Zimmermans walking around making sure our little Trayvon Martins don’t get out of line,” Rajel Johnson, the parent of a second-grader at Whittier Elementary, said.
“Because who’s going to hold these people accountable?” Johnson asked. “We don’t know these people. Where are you from? What do you believe in? At least with the police we had some checks and balances.”
He also criticized the proposed pay scale which appeared to be a lot more money than most teachers are paid in Minneapolis, the CityPages reported.
The district has boasted about saving $1.1 million a year in their budget when they cancelled the contract with MPD, but under the new plan, $944,000 will go to pay 11 new security guards for the schools.
More than 100 angry teachers and parents protested the hiring move on Sunday outside the school district headquarters in the Davis Center, according to the CityPages.
The protesters said the school district’s actions don’t match what they said when they voted to eliminate the SROs.
“I value people and education and life,” Minneapolis Board of Education Chairwoman Kim Ellison told the Star Tribune at the time. “Now I’m convinced, based on the actions of the Minneapolis Police Department, that we don’t have the same values.”
School board member Kimberly Caprini said at the time of the vote that she “firmly [believes] that it is completely unnatural to have police in schools.”
Several other community partners also cut ties with Minneapolis police in the wake of Floyd’s death.
University of Minnesota announced on May 28 that it would no longer use the MPD or its K9 explosive-detection units to help manage security at large events such as ceremonies, concerts, and football games, Sports Illustrated reported.
The demand for the University of Minnesota to sever ties with the MPD was made in a letter from undergraduate student body president Jael Kerandi.
“We no longer wish to have a meeting or come to an agreement, there is no middle ground,” Kerandi wrote. “The police are murdering black men with no meaningful repercussions. This is not a problem of some other place or some other time. This is happening right here in Minneapolis.”
The Minneapolis Park Board followed suit on June 3 with a vote to terminate its relationship with MPD, KSTU reported.
Police have guarded events on the park property in the past.
On Monday, the Minneapolis school board confirmed they had begun an “accelerated schedule” to hire the 11 new security specialists, the CityPages reported.
The board released a statement that claimed the move was only the first part of a two-step safety plan that will not be completed until next school year.
The school board said that the job listing which said the position required a background in law enforcement was a mistake, the CityPages reported.
The statement said students who volunteered to serve on the district’s climate and behavior framework committees would be included for the second round of interviews for potential candidates to prove the security specialists “will be working in collaboration with schools to continue to dismantle the white supremacist culture we operate under.”
“We regret any misunderstanding about the intent for these initial positions,” the statement read, according to the CityPages.