The Red Clay School Board voted 5-2 to keep its school resource officer program, but not without lengthy arguments being made by the two dissenters before the vote, and a racially charged exchange after midnight in a marathon meeting.
School Board members Dr. Adriana Bohm and Jose Matthews drafted the "George Floyd and Breonna Taylor Resolution" that would have terminated the contract between Red Clay and the Delaware State Police and Wilmington Police Department in connection to their SRO programs.
In a public comment period that lasted over two hours, WDEL estimates there were 25 people who spoke against the SRO program, with 11 coming out in favor of it.
Bohm said one of her concerns was how much power the officers had within their schools.
"This resolution is about systematic racism in our educational system. This resolution is about the school-to-prison pipeline, and how law enforcement in schools shift the governance of discipline away from the schools, and into the criminal justice arena."
During the public comment, University of Delaware Sociology and Criminal Justice professor Aaron Kupchik spoke against keeping the SRO program.
"There is no consistent research showing that SROs are able to prevent student crime, or even school shootings. Research on this is inconclusive. A small number of studies does find that an SRO's presence can reduce student crime, but a larger number of high quality studies shows either no effect, or that an SROs presence is associated with more student crime and misbehavior."
Red Clay Superintendent Dorrell Green said there's a lot of support from the leaders at his schools.
"School Resource Officers, based on what I'm hearing from my administration and staff, play a valuable role in what they feel necessary. If we move, and go to a different path, we need to be strategic on how we get there."
Bohm questioned whether the savings could be used to hire more support personnel.
"It also pushes the Red Clay School Board and the community to consider whether we want to continue to use educational funds for law enforcement, or if that $90,000 per individual SRO can be more appropriately spent on educational needs."
Bohm said she didn't want people to think her attack on the program had anything to do with the officers working in Red Clay's schools.
"This resolution is not about liking or disliking individual law enforcement officers like Constable Bob, all right? Many of us have law enforcement officers in our families, and we have people who served in the military in all types of wars."
While his resolution eventually failed, Matthews said at the very least work needs to be done to improve student-police relationships.
"The reality of our situation is that the evidence proves that many Black and Brown students do not feel safe with police present. Our Black and Brown children, and many of our White children, cannot go another school year with armed officers greeting them at the door."
Red Clay's vote came just over 24 hours after the Christina School Board voted to keep their 10 SRO officers for the 2020-21 school year.
Towards the end of the meeting that stretched into early Thursday morning, the Board voted to begin forming a committee that would look into racial and equality issues in the district.
During individual board member comments at the end of the session, Bohm brought up a request to look up the possibility of bringing a student member onto the Red Clay Board, like the Delaware State Board of Education, when she got some pushback from the board's president Catherine Thompson.
"That was raised before Adriana, and we got legal advice that it was not possible, so I think that that we need to get legal advice."
Bohm then responded to Thompson.
"Every time I bring up something, or Jose brings up something, as the Board President, you always try to tell us what we can do. Let's have a conversation about the possibilities, and the fact we can make changes, Cathy, and instead of always telling us 'no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no,' maybe you could open yourself up to the idea that another world is possible, that another world is out there and can be re-imagined. Instead of sitting in your old status quo ways, you could open up yourself to these possibilities. At this point you don't need to respond, you can sit there in your whiteness, and you can listen. Just be a good listener tonight, you don't have to respond."
The board meeting adjourned at 12:35 a.m. Thursday morning.