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Some CPS Students Demand Removal Of SROs After Data Show Disproportionate Discipline

Student protesters blocked the entrance to the Cincinnati Public Schools Education Center Monday, displaying a banner calling for the removal of school resource officers from the district.

The Young Activists Coalition has been making similar demands for nearly a year, citing disproportionate discipline used against Black students.

Recent data from the ACLU of Ohio show Black students in CPS are five times more likely to face discipline than white students.

While Black students are 63% of the student population, they make up 93% of out-of-school suspensions, 89% of police referrals, 85% of in-school suspensions, and 78% of expulsions.

The protest was planned after the group says it was not allowed to present data about SROs at Monday's Health and Safety Committee meeting. Young Activists Coalition President Yousuf Munir says this happened despite members of the Health and Safety Committee encouraging the group to speak.

"They were unresponsive until a week before the committee meeting, at which point they told us that the speaker slots had filled up and they would only accept a written statement from us," Munir said.

He says despite making demands for nearly a year, the school board isn't listening to them.

"What brought us to this point that grown adults can't make the right decisions without being pressured by literal children?" Munir said.

YAC member Aiko Kimura says SROs and zero tolerance policies criminalize students.

"In CPS, student resource officers arrest nearly two students every school day and students need parent support, not arrests," Kimura said.

Public records requests made by ACLU show CPS' Memorandum of Understanding with the Cincinnati Police Department grants CPD unilateral power over school policing, including placement, identity, and number of officers, with no mandatory reporting to CPS.

CPS Response

The school district responded to the protest with a statement saying it appreciates "all voices on this important topic," and noted it will work with students from Speak Up and Speak Out, a district-sponsored  group.

Members of that group presented demands to the school board in March, calling for CPS to "facilitate a stronger relationship and better understanding between students and the [Cincinnati] Police Department."

You can read the full statement from CPS below:

We appreciate all voices on this important topic. This is a critical issue and we have taken the demand from CPS Students Speak Up and Speak Out to build "a stronger relationship between students and the Cincinnati Police Department" seriously. Students have met with the Cincinnati Police Department to lay the foundation for change and build positive relationships, one based on respect, not stereotypes, between African American students and Cincinnati police officers. In addition, we have hosted productive meetings between students and parents, CPS, and the CPD. We are taking actionable steps to address disproportionality. These efforts include, but are not limited to:
Renewed focus and allocation of resources to district and schoolwide Positive Behavior Intervention Supports (PBIS) Invested in the expanded role and support of school social workers from 26 to 71 Resource coordination supports in every school by the end of next year Professional Development around Restorative Practices offered districtwide since 2019 Restructured the Interdisciplinary District Discipline Committee in 2019-2020 to focus specifically on revising our Student Support Guide Code of Conduct to remove criminal language (e.g., violent disorderly conduct, trespassing, robbery, etc.). Additional revisions, including adding our new Anti-Racism Policy, are in process now.

Cory Sharber attended Murray State University majoring in journalism and political science and comes to Cincinnati Public Radio from NPR Member station WKMS.