School Climate & Safety

Atlanta District Will Drop City Police, Hire Own Force

By The Associated Press — March 15, 2016 3 min read

One of Georgia’s largest school systems plans to end its school security contract with the Atlanta police department and form its own security team that is “aligned with its social-emotional learning approach,” the district has announced.

The Atlanta district is moving ahead with the plan despite warnings from the city Mayor Kasim Reed that the move could have “catastrophic consequences” for children.

The school system is taking steps to form its own police force and to replace the city police officers currently patrolling schools with officers directly accountable to the district.

In a letter sent Feb. 22, the district’s operations chief, Larry Hoskins, notified the city that Atlanta schools would terminate the contract effective June 30.

Reed said recently that the school system’s decision to end its contract with the city police department was “beyond” him.

“Everyone knows APS is independent. They’re expressing their independence. But I think they’re going to make the children of the Atlanta school system far less safe,” Reed said.

District officials suggested earlier this year that the in-house department could cost more than the district’s annual $5.6 million contract with the city, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. But district spokeswoman Jill Strickland said last week that the new department would not actually cost more, and it was unclear why the cost estimates changed, the newspaper reported.

On its website, the district announced plans to hire 55 school resource officers as well as a chief of police, a compliance officer, and a number of other ranking officers, with a new force expected to be in place at the start of the new school year in August. The district’s move comes as schools around the country are re-evaluating the relationships between police and their schools.

Some larger districts prefer to run their own police forces, saying that such an arrangement gives them more oversight over how officers and resources are used in their schools. Many large districts, including Los Angeles, have independent police forces.

Video Captures Incidents

School-based officers have faced additional scrutiny recently after videos of incidents of harsh student treatment by school officers surfaced on social media. In Baltimore, which has a district-run force, two officers face criminal charges after one of them was captured recently on video slapping and kicking a teenage boy outside a school. A video last year of a sheriff’s deputy violently removing a South Carolina teenager from her desk sparked a state-run task force to re-examine school discipline and a move by some lawmakers to rethink the causes for student arrests.

Civil rights advocates have used both incidents to call for more sweeping changes, including fewer police in schools and more oversight over how officers interact with students.

In a 2014 civil rights guidance on school discipline, the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education put districts on notice that they are responsible for ensuring that officers in their schools respect the rights of their students, whether or not they are employed by an outside force.

Atlanta police spokeswoman Elizabeth Espy said in a statement that the department will work with the school system to make sure the change is a smooth one, The Journal-Constitution reported.

“The Atlanta police department’s priority is to protect city residents and visitors, which includes students in the Atlanta public schools,” Espy said. “We will work with APS to ensure a smooth transition so that student safety continues to be our focus, regardless of our physical presence in the schools.”

Staff Writer Evie Blad contributed to this report.
A version of this article appeared in the March 16, 2016 edition of Education Week as Amid Scrutiny of School-Based Officers, Atlanta to Hire Own Force

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Professional Development Webinar
Building Leadership Excellence Through Instructional Coaching
Join this webinar for a discussion on instructional coaching and ways you can link your implement or build on your program.
Content provided by Whetstone Education/SchoolMint
Teaching Webinar Tips for Better Hybrid Learning: Ask the Experts What Works
Register and ask your questions about hybrid learning to our expert panel.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Families & the Community Webinar
Family Engagement for Student Success With Dr. Karen Mapp
Register for this free webinar to learn how to empower and engage families for student success featuring Karen L. Mapp.
Content provided by Panorama Education & PowerMyLearning

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Senior Director Marketing
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Camelot Education
Coordinator of Strategic Partnerships
Camden, New Jersey, United States
Camelot Education
Training Specialist -- Little Leaves Behavioral Services
Weston, Florida, United States
Camelot Education
Superintendent, Mount Pleasant CSD
Thornwood, New York
Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates

Read Next

School Climate & Safety Boy, 15, Injured in Arkansas School Shooting; Classmate Held
A 15-year-old boy shot and seriously injured a fellow student Monday morning at an Arkansas junior high school, authorities said.
1 min read
Traffic is lined up March 1, 2021 outside Watson Chapel Junior High School in Pine Bluff, Ark. as parents pick up students after a shooting at the school.
Traffic is lined up March 1, 2021 outside Watson Chapel Junior High School in Pine Bluff, Ark. as parents pick up students after a shooting at the school.
Staton Breidenthal/The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette via AP
School Climate & Safety Interactive School Shootings This Year: How Many and Where
Education Week is tracking shootings in K-12 schools in 2021. See the number of incidents and where they occurred in our map and data table.
3 min read
Sign indicating school zone.
iStock/Getty
School Climate & Safety When Toxic Positivity Seeps Into Schools, Here's What Educators Can Do
Papering over legitimate, negative feelings with phrases like "look on the bright side" can be harmful for teachers and students.
6 min read
Image shows the Mr. Yuck emoji with his tongue out in response to bubbles of positive sayings all around him.
Gina Tomko/Education Week + Ingram Publishing/Getty
School Climate & Safety Opinion Teaching's 'New Normal'? There's Nothing Normal About the Constant Threat of Death
As the bizarre becomes ordinary, don't forget what's at stake for America's teachers during the COVID-19 pandemic, writes Justin Minkel.
4 min read
14Minkel IMG
Gremlin/E+