As residents call for cities to defund police departments, some parents and students want the same in their school districts. The Kern High School District board is voting on its annual budget Monday and ahead of that meeting, community organizers have been circulating a petition to defund the district’s police department.
Kern High School District has its own police department. Only two percent of districts in the state operate one; most contract with a local city.
This month the Oakland Unified School District board voted to abolish its police department. Community activist Ucedrah Osby said the petition from the Kern Education Justice Collaborative is asking for that to happen in Bakersfield too.
“There’s no restorative justice that can take place, when you have schools that are filled with cops,” said Osby. “Our kids are not thriving, and every dollar they’re spending on the police is taken away from the support networks of school counselors, psychologists, clinicians, nurses.”
Osby heads the local chapter of All of Us or None, a group committed to ending the school to prison pipeline. She says part of the problem is a lack of diversity among school staff.
“When you don't see staff who look like you or are from a culture that you come from, it’s very hard to relate,” said Osby. “It’s very hard to convey your message and feel like what you have to say matters.”
Last year, Kern High School District spent about $4 million on its police department, which is less than one percent of its budget.
This all comes after a 2017 settlement from a lawsuit among social justice organizations, 14 parents and the district where the parents alleged disproportionate suspensions and expulsions due to race.
The board meeting begins Monday, June 29 at 6 p.m. with open session convening at 7 p.m.