The on going tensions between police and community are now being felt in Erie’s public schools as the group Erie County United calls for a reduction to the district’s million dollar police contract.
School districts with police departments across the nation are facing the same question: how can schools continue to better serve the needs of students and staff safely?
Erie County United is a group demanding racial, educational, and economic equity by demanding that policing funds move into useful ways to uplift Erie students.
“We can have more counselors , we can have more psychologists in schools, we can be doing better to recruit teachers of color in the schools,” says Elspeth Koehle, organizer of Erie County United.
Erie County United says school police officers contribute to school suspensions, exclusionary discipline, and arrests. They argue those consequences impact children of color at a higher rate.
“No evidence has ever been found that having SRO in schools prevents violence or contributes to a safer environment,” says Koehle.
The Erie School Board says its ultimate goal is to review the role and operations of the school district’s police department in hopes to shift to a more community relationship building environment.
“I can say that we absolutely understand that this is an issue that our entire community is concerned about, and as with any issue we want to hear people’s voices,” says Erica Erwin, coordinator of public relations of Erie’s Public Schools.
“If we can start looking at the budget in a more progressive way I think that could improve a lot of students’ lives in the community,” says Koehle.
This is a developing story. We will continue to update you as it develops.