Allegations of Excessive Force Surface Again
The Elk Grove Unified School District is taking some heat over allegations of excessive force and inappropriate conduct by school resource officers. This is not the first time that this issue has been brought to light. In previous Elk Grove Unified School District meetings, the contentious issue has been mentioned many times.
Over the past year, Elk Grove Unified School District has come under fire for excessive force, as well as racism and discrimination occurring in Elk Grove schools. Students, faculty, and deputies assigned to duties at schools have come forward alleging excessive force, racism, and discrimination. However, it’s important to note that when a complaint involves a Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department deputy or employee that the Sacramento County Sheriff”s Department will investigate the complaint. Deputies may be assigned to a school but their employer is not EGUSD.
Lorreen Pryor, President of the Black Youth Leadership Project, indicates that the problem of excessive force isn’t isolated to just one occurrence. “What you’re seeing is incident, after incident after incident. Any time you have a deputy on campus that feels comfortable enough to throw a child across the desk of an administrator, yes, that’s excessive force.” Pryor thinks that enough is not being done to protect students. “I need to know how many times an SRO can have a complaint lodged against them before they’re relieved of their duties.”
Michelle Murphy voiced her concerns over and include with her son at Cosumnes Oaks High School. “He lifted my son out of the seat, threw him across the vice principal’s desk, with the vice principal present and the vice principal confirming that he did this and handcuffed him. Nothing was done.”
She addressed the Elk Grove school board on May 15 about an incident from last October concerning her son’s interaction with a school resource officer at Cosumnes Oaks High School.
It should be noted that the School Resource Officer in question is no longer assigned to Cosumnes River Oaks High School and has been re-assigned since May.
Angela Jemmott says that her son also experienced mistreatment from a school resource officer. “I’m not gonna say all SRO’s don’t know their boundaries or don’t know how to partner with families, but there are too many that don’t and too many who are allowed to continue working even though there have been case after case after case.”
Sergeant Shawn Hampton of the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department says, “We do conduct a thorough investigation whether it’s use of force or other behavior.” He indicated that the department does investigate each incident but bristles at the accusation that school resource officers target male African American students. “Without question, there is no targeting of African-Americans going on with our school resource officers. If we do have complaints, those types of complaints are taken very seriously.”
Xanthi Pinkerton, Spokeswoman for EGUSD, would like everyone to know that allegations aren’t being ignored. “When they’re talking to us in board meetings, we are listening. I think the work that’s gone into this policy is an answer to several of concerns. We are working together to create a safe and welcoming place for everyone. First, we’re setting expectations, then giving guidance then we will have tools for training for staff and law enforcement. We’ll be working with school resource officers on implicit bias training, principled policing, so when it comes to equitable needs, they are trained as well.”
Most noteworthy, the Elk Grove Unified School District is now rolling out new policies. These policies will outline the specific roles staff will play to defuse situations first, as well as, what is expected from law enforcement officers.
Statement of Sacramento County
Sheriff’s Deputy Dexter Powe
Sacramento County Sheriff’s Deputy Dexter Powe decided to leave his SRO job at Sheldon High School in April 2017, after experiencing what he felt were several targeted acts by the Director of Safety & Security.
“The Elk Grove District Director of Safety and Security discriminated against five African Americans based on race. The school district is covering up. They’re not acknowledging his racist acts, which is taking away jobs.
The proverbial onion is starting to peel for EGUSD Security Serivces. There is so much more that the truth will be revealed. As the truth comes forward, the public will begin to understand the seriousness of the problem. Others are now starting to connect the dots and understand the the one’s who banned us (African American deputies) are the same ones who are currently charged to protect the EGUSD kids and conduct investigations related to race and safety on these campuses.
First of all, at this point, I’m confident EGUSD’s upper management is aware of the problems within. Past tactics aren’t working anymore. The community wants answers.
Also, I was clearly trained not to enforce a school rule or policy with a law enforcement response. Our department does a thorough job in investigating these matters. I’m confident a thorough investigation will be conducted. Furthermore, the public has to understand that one of a SRO’s primary responsibility is to keep the bad elements out and away, not police the students from within.
However, EGUSD seriously lacks in training their new administrators those thresholds. Many times over, an administrator asked me to intervene with conduct issues. My response was always, “I can’t enforce school rules.” I told them, “I do not scare kids to correct their behavior.”
However, a lot needs to be done. There needs to be an upheaval from within. I would recommend some form of an external, independent entity to investigate, assess, and recommend change. If done thoroughly, the task would be huge! Oversight is mandatory.
In terms of new policies, I haven’t seen the entire document. But polices mean nothing if not based on the true problem. Some components in the document I saw last night were the same as I was given 10 years ago.”
Statement of Bobbie Singh-Allen
EGUSD School Board Member
Since the community meeting on race relations, myself and the board have been vocal advocates seeking policy changes to protect students. Since the meeting, in January, we have a standing update on District efforts on race and educational equity. Our progress can be monitored here: http://www.egusd.net/about/district/initiatives/race-educational-equity/
Additionally, I have been outspoken in almost every board meeting on the role of SROs, use of force, and more I am happy to say that the proposed board policy addresses many of those concerns.
I read the following statement into the record yesterday from Mechale Murphy, principal at Zehnder Ranch. Not only is she an administrator, her son experienced first hand some of the problems at his school site. Her opinion on the proposed policy change is very important for me as she is a trusted and valuable principal and parent.
Email from Mechale Murphy, Principal of Zehnder Ranch Elementary School
To Bobbie Singh-Allen
This brought tears to my eyes. After the incident with my son, I scoured the policies of other districts in search of policy related to student and police interaction and could not find any. I think EGUSDs Trustees are the first board to adopt specific guidelines for SROs as it relates to pupil interaction. The inclusion of an expectation from the Board that parents be contacted is evidence of our respect for children and their families. The sense of relief I have right now is amazing. I am in debt to the Board for taking action on everything I requested. The policy clearly seeks to protect kids, but at the same time is fair to administrators.
*Read At EGUSD Meeting by Bobbie Singh-Allen
With Mechale Murphy’s Permission*
Statement of Xanthi Pinkerton
Spokeswoman of Elk Grove Unified School District
“Complaints against employees of the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department are processed by the Sheriff’s Department, not the District. Accordingly, the District cannot provide any specific comment regarding such claims. However, any report of excessive force used by anyone with or on our students is a matter we take very seriously as it would not reflect our commitment to providing a welcoming and safe educational environment for our students.
The new policy that was presented to the Board last night for discussion takes our educational practices and matches that practice with policy. Our practice is to always be responsive to every students’ educational, social and emotional needs and to provide a welcoming, equitable and safe learning environment for our students, parents/guardians and other community members. The new policy clearly lays out our expectation of school climate and culture and the District’s expectation of the role of district staff and school administrators and the role of our law enforcement partners relative to student behavior.
Once feedback from the Board and any input from our stakeholders has been received, District staff will then bring the policy back to the Board for approval. In the meantime, campus security and School Resource Officers are being currently trained to recognize Bias Based Policing to understand that in our schools, law enforcement must remain fair and impartial in their discretion and decisions. They will also be completing Principled Policing which is procedural justice and implicit bias training.
As soon as the new Board policy is in place with the Administrative Regulations, the District will then begin to train District staff on the new policy.
Our goal is to continue using progressive discipline to address student behavior using interventions and alternatives rather than solely relying on exclusionary practices as means to address student behavior. The District is already providing training and professional development through the lens of equity with implicit bias training and cultural competency training as well as training for trauma-informed schools. Additional professional development includes the Arbinger Institute training with regard to mindset. Combined, we aim to bring mindfulness toward the changes we seek in others together with empathy and compassion in response to our students and their needs.”
As EGUSD attempts to do damage control, some parents are frustrated by the delay in a swift response to allegations of mistreatment when they occur.
Angela Jemmott knows that it is an ongoing battle. “I know have to continue in this fight.”
In conclusion, it’s clear that EGUSD recognizes the need for clear policies that are transparent to students, parents, and faculty. The draft of the new policies will go through the EGUSD approvals process.