Activists holding panel on public safety in schools

NOW: Activists holding panel on public safety in schools

SOUTH BEND, Ind.-- Public safety inside South Bend schools has been a hot topic in recent months.

Local organizations Black Lives Matter South Bend, The Michiana Alliance Against Racist & Political Repression, NAACP South Bend, Community Action for Education, and Community Forum for Economic Justice, along with many other activists are holding a discussion panel called “Reimagining Public Safety in South Bend,” on Tuesday, to bring new ideas to the table about policing in schools.

According to congressional records, police were actually introduced to South Bend schools back in 1968 in direct response to the cities civil rights movement.

Since 2012, the city of South Bend and the South Bend Community School Corporation have operated under a Memorandum of Understanding, which allows police officers inside school buildings. This has been a controversial subject over the past year, further fueled by the national and local unrest after the death of George Floyd, who died in police custody in Minneapolis. Since then, calls to remove officers from schools and replace them with different personnel, continue to grow.

“We are calling for violence interventionists, peace builders, hiring more security guards to make a higher wage instead of police officers. We don’t need armed men with guns in our schools to deal with children. We need folks who are trained and who are able to best address school youth behavior without having to use or resort to violence,” Black Lives Matter South Bend organizer Jorden Giger said.

This hasn’t been the first time this topic has been brought up, though. Back in May, activists met and invited the public to join them to discuss the removal of police officers in schools. South Bend’s FOP, Harvey Mills, responded to it all, saying that taking officers out of school would only hurt youth, and create a divide between students and police.

However, organizers of this panel say it is important to keep bringing up ongoing and reoccurring concerns, to try and create, what they call, a better environment for students. 

“For the last three years folks and city leaders have talked about how South Bend needs to become a trauma informed community, and so this is part of that process right? Like if we are going to talk about being trauma informed, we need to center our young people. If we want to build a new and better world and better South Bend, we need to start with our children. We have to lead by example,” Giger said.

Regardless of the outcome of the discussion, organizers hope moving forward, that the community can be more educated and aware of these issues, with the overall goal to try and make the city of South Bend and its schools, more inviting and safer for all. 

“Research has shown that schools that have police, armed police officers in schools, those students are more likely to be referred to for arrests, they’re more likely to be suspended, expelled, harmed. So, we want folks to understand that if you truly believe that black lives matter, you have to support this cause to remove armed police officers because it starts with our young people, it starts with our children. If we truly want to see a better, stronger, more trauma informed community, we have to build a better future for our young people,” Giger said.

The discussion panel is taking place at the Civil Right's Heritage Center at 6 PM.

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