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In the News: School Officers Near Return to South San Francisco Campuses

Original article courtesy San Mateo Daily Journal

By Sierra Lopez
Daily Journal staff  
May 17, 2022

Negotiations around policing on South San Francisco Unified School District campuses appear to be coming to a close after trustees voted to accept the most recent interaction of an agreement between the district and the city.
 
For about two years, district and city officials have been going back and forth on the terms of an agreement that would outline when and how school liaison officers can be on campuses. Now on the version 15 of the MOU, a majority of district trustees were ready to accept the agreement that was approved by the South San Francisco City Council after their own changes on March 23.
 
“We’re on iteration 15 and I think it’s fine. As long as it’s fine with our superintendent and staff who in our board packet recommend the approval of the MOU, I just urge my colleagues to do it,” Trustee Patricia Murray said.
 
The partnership has been in place for years but it wasn’t until 2020 that officials realized a formal memorandum of understanding wasn’t on the books, Superintendent Shawnterra Moore said during a board meeting last Thursday.
 
Previously, officers engaged with students and staff in a variety of manners, including offering presentations and other efforts to build community. However, some students and members of the school community feared it led to overpolicing and harassment.
 
Murray has been a longtime advocate for quickly approving an agreement so officers could return to campuses after trustees suspended the program before the recent school year began. And both trustees Daina Lujan and
Chialin Hsieh said they were comfortable with the agreement as drafted.
 
Alternatively, students spoke out against approving the MOU during Thursday’s meeting including Student Trustee Abigail Verino who said her stance on the MOU has not changed and that her solidarity was with her fellow classmates.
 
“It would be a disservice of me to not stand with the students and not stand with the people that I attend school with and those that I do serve,” Verino said.
 
Heeding those calls, board President John Baker was the lone vote against adopting the MOU after he argued the document provided the police department more wiggle room than initial interactions and suggested the board request that a civil liberties group review the document.
 
“We’ve essentially gone a full school year without student liaison officers in place and things have not fallen apart but there are, as I’ve said before, times when officers will need to come to campus and my desire with this is to protect students when the police arrive,” Baker said.
 
Aside from Baker, the only other member to share some concerns was Vice President Mina Richardson who questioned whether staff was comfortable with being asked to present on the MOU annually in March instead of at the end of the spring semester in June, a date Baker preferred. Moore said staff would work under either timeline and the March date went unchanged when the document was approved by the board.
 
Responding to Baker’s concerns, Richardson argued that the document had already been reviewed by legal teams and voted in support of the agreement after noting staff’s backing of the MOU.
 
Ultimately, broader board support was not behind Baker’s suggestion and trustees voted 4-1 to approve the agreement. Once the agreement has been approved by both parties, the MOU will take effect after 30 days, giving district administrators time to communicate the changed policy to school staff. Either party can also give a 30-day notice ending the agreement without cause.
 
“I understand that things are going to be different. There’s not going to be SLOs loitering in the halls waiting for kids to befriend. That’s my understanding but that’s not up to us right now. We’ve got the framework and then Dr. Moore’s got to do the fine-tuning here,” Richardson said. “I think we’ve been very diligent, careful and the staff has already responded.”
 
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