‘No cops in schools!’: Protesters shut down board meeting, delaying budget vote

‘No cops in schools!’: Protesters shut down board meeting, delaying budget vote

Members from a group known as Freedom Inc. shouted their concerns about having educational resource officers in school during the Madison Metropolitan School District board meeting Monday evening, prompting board President Mary Burke to adjourn the meeting before a vote regarding the more than $415 million budget.

“Last night, it felt like people came to purposely disrupt the meeting,” Burke said.

Freedom Inc.’s youth justice coordinator Bianca Gomez responded, “What’s disruptive is them continuing to put money into our police officers instead of putting it into our youth.”

Gomez said she believes that based on historic incidents that arise when police are in schools, students are subject to harassment, discrimination and living with fear walking the halls.

“Freedom Inc. doesn’t support any budget that continues to invest money into the criminalization of children and not into their growth and development,” Gomez said.

Burke said the EROs are placed in schools for safety reasons.

“We have had an ERO ad hoc committee studying this issue for the last year and a half,” Burke said. “They just made recommendations to the board and this is a topic we will be looking at with regards to renewing the contract with Madison police for the 2019-20 school year.”

Gomez doesn’t believe a police presence in school will increase safety, particularly with the rise in reports of school shootings in recent years. Gomez said, “They use school shootings as an excuse to keep police in schools.”

The board was supposed to vote on a $415 million budget but had to postpone based on what Burke called an “unacceptable” protest. The budget needs to be approved by Nov. 1.

Numerous people chanted, “No cops in schools! If we don’t get it, shut it down!”

The chants began a little more than an hour into the meeting before Burke decided to adjourn the meeting.

“She continues to silence us and continues to ignore our messages,” Gomez said.

Burke said she welcomes public input and voices of concern during meetings, but the comments must be made in a way that the meeting can continue. Burke said there were other people who wanted to voice other concerns that weren’t able to do so.

‘No cops in schools!’: Protesters shut down board meeting, delaying budget vote

While Gomez wants the money currently spent on EROs to be spent on counselors for students, Burke said student resources are “built into the budget.”

The board will hold another meeting Wednesday afternoon to decide on the budget.

Gomez said members from Freedom Inc. will continue to show up to school board meetings to achieve their goal of removing all police presence from school grounds.

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