The public school district in Minneapolis, after cutting their ties with the city’s police in early June, has quietly sought to replace contracted school resource officers (SROs) with privately hired security guards - a move that enraged the teachers union, which wants no policing on campus at all.
In the wake of the death of George Floyd in the custody of Minneapolis police officers, the Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) board of education voted unanimously to terminate its contract with the Minneapolis Police Department, saying it “cannot continue to be in partnership with an organization that has the culture of violence and racism.” As the new school year approaches, however, the MPS found itself in need of a security force to keep campuses safe.
According to an online job posting, the MPS plans to pay between $65,695 to $85,790 for 11 “public safety support specialists (PSSS).” The PSSS won’t be police officers, but are required to have law enforcement degrees and experience. Their list of responsibilities include: breaking up fights, event security, and providing “a bridge between in-school intervention and law enforcement.”
The MPS hiring effort soon came to the notice of Minneapolis Federation of Teachers (MFT), reported local newspaper City Pages. The MFT, which played an active role in prompting the district to cut ties with the police, was furious that it had not been consulted about the plan.
“When we said we didn’t want any more SROs, any more police officers in our buildings, we did not mean, ‘hire a bunch of private security officers and put them in our buildings,'” MFT President Greta Callahan told City Pages.
More than 100 Minneapolis teachers and families participated in a “No Cops In Our Schools” rally on July 19 outside the district headquarters to protest against what they called “rent-a-cops.”
In response, the MPS said they were hiring for PSSS on “an accelerated schedule to ensure we have staff onboard and extensively trained” before Aug. 18, the first day of school.
“Unfortunately, because we used an existing job description to allow us to meet our August 18 deadline, the job description did mention a background in law enforcement,” the district explained in a statement, adding that most of applicants they had interviewed don’t have that experience.
“The most important experience required for the position is understanding and making authentic connections with students so that students do not feel another adult is being brought in to control them,” the district said.
The deaths of George Floyd has caused many school districts to consider stop contracting with local police departments or dismantling their own campus police forces. Protesters in several major cities, notably Chicago, Denver, and Portland, have demanded the removal of resource officers from schools.