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The Portland School Board’s Three New Members Weigh In On Whether Police Belong In District Schools

The Portland school board will likely wrestle with the question of whether armed police officers belong in its nine high schools next year. And its three newest members, set to be sworn in on July 2, will play a prominent role in those discussions.
Andrew Scott, Michelle DePass and Eilidh Lowery won their respective races in May to replace Julie Esparza Brown, Paul Anthony and Mike Rosen during an election that also returned Amy Kohnstamm to the board for another four-year term.
The three newcomers spoke to The Oregonian/OregonLive about their priorities for the next four years, as well as their perspective on issues the school board will address in the next 12 months. And all three struck a different note than most of the seven members of the current board, including two of whom will remain in office after June 30 and voted yes last year on whether armed officers are the way to go.
In December of 2018, the board approved an agreement with city police to pony up $1.2 million per year to fund full-time school resource officers at its nine high schools. Kohnstamm and Scott Bailey abstained from that vote.
The decision was met with protests, which led to the school board to reverse course about a month later — but only on the matter of funding the program.
Board members and district officials say they want police in schools while many students oppose the presence of armed law enforcement patrolling their halls.
Here’s where the school board’s three newcomers fall on the issue:
Andrew Scott, Zone 1:
Andrew Scott, deputy chief operating officer at Metro, will represent Zone 1 on the Portland school board starting July 2.
Photo by Christina Morales/Staff
Andrew Scott, deputy chief operating officer at Metro, will represent Zone 1 on the Portland school board starting July 2.
“One of our primary responsibilities is to ensure students are safe at their schools. Safety includes students feeling safe as well, and some of our students don’t feel safe around Portland police officers.
It’s important we listen to students and collaboratively figure out solutions to help them feel safe.
I think we need to talk to the city and the police bureau and really make sure that’s what’s happening. There are also options to have unarmed community resource officers in the school as well. That’s exactly the balance we’re trying to strike.”
Michelle DePass, Zone 2:
Michelle DePass represents Zone 2 on the Portland School board.
Photo by Eder Campuzano/Staff
Michelle DePass represents Zone 2 on the Portland School board.
“I am not a huge fan of school resource officers because we know, and the data tells us, that kids of color are more likely to be harmed. I don’t believe a school resource officer could stop a mass shooting or even respond to a mass shooting.
I feel like that conversation needs to about who’s entitled to comfort and safety. It’s usually white people that are entitled to a sense of safety and a sense of comfort.
White parents might feel safe, but me, I don’t feel safe. The worst thing that could happen is a shooting, in my opinion, and a school resource officer is not going to be able to address that.
I would love to see that budget directed toward supports, counselors, people who connect with the kids.”
Eilidh Lowery, Zone 7:
Southeast Portland pastor Eilidh Lowery will represent Zone 7 on the Portland school board starting July 2.
Photo by Christina Morales/Staff
Southeast Portland pastor Eilidh Lowery will represent Zone 7 on the Portland school board starting July 2.
“I think we have to look into our students and how they feel what it’s like, especially for minority students, to be in schools with resource officers.
I think we need to create a culture of safety and community for all students. I don’t think where we are right now in PPS, (that) we’re ready to expand our school resource officers.
I think there’s definitely a community sense that we need counselors, not cops.
When students spoke at the school board, there was a sense that school resource officers wouldn’t help keep them safe. There’s documented systemic racism because of the way that our national narrative is about police officers in our communities.
In Vancouver, there were several instances. There’s this moment of fragileness, and we need to be careful about who we bring into schools and listen to our students.”
--Eder Campuzano and Christina Morales

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