Removal of Cops on Richmond School Board Agenda

by James C. Sherlock

The City of Richmond School Board tonight has as an agenda item its strategic plan “Priority 3 – Safe and Loving School Cultures” tonight at 6 PM.

Meeting Jun 07, 2021 – Richmond City School Board Meeting – 6:00 p.m. Category New Business Subject New Business. Type Procedural Goals
Priority 1 – Exciting and Rigorous Teaching And Learning
Priority 2 – Skilled and Supported Staff
Priority 3 – Safe and Loving School Cultures
Priority 4 – Deep Partnership with Families and Community
Priority 5 – Modern Systems and Infrastructure

That is where Superintendent Jason Kamras’ proposal last summer to remove school resource officers (SRO) from the schools in which they currently provide security is the biggest issue.

Some teachers in those schools are concerned about their safety and the safety of the children if Kamras’ proposal is adopted. So inevitably are some of the parents. Other parents and teachers support the change. Non-profit lawyers of course support it.

A good background article was published by the RTD on Friday. The author wrote:

“The topic is not listed on the School Board’s agenda for its meeting on Monday but could come up during June’s second board meeting, scheduled for June 17.”

As of this morning, it was there. But the agenda and the agenda item detail were buried seven and eight clicks deep into the school board web site.

Hard to say whether there will be discussion or if public comment will be encouraged.


Kamras quite suddenly announced last summer in the middle of a policy review that he wants to get the SRO cops out of the 11 schools in Southside Richmond where they currently serve and replace them as outlined in other strategic initiatives listed here:

Strategic Goal
Name Priority 3 – Safe and Loving School Cultures
Make “trauma-informed” practices a core pillar of the “RPS Way” by providing long-term meaningful training for our educators and support staff on the skills necessary to effective serve students facing toxic stress in their lives.
Make “restorative justice” practices a core pillar of the “RPS Way” by providing long-term, meaningful training for our educators and support staff on the skills necessary to resolve conflicts, increase empathy, and reduce suspensions.
Increase the number of staff providing mental health and social supports by at least 25% and ensure that all schools have a nurse.
Launch a team-building retreat for each incoming sixth grade class and each incoming ninth grade class to build positive relationships prior to the start of school.
Launch an annual event to celebrate RPS students who have taken extraordinary steps to positively impact the culture in their schools.
Ensure every school has a “celebration plan” that outlines how it will bring joy to the student and staff experience throughout the year.
Provide intensive training on positive, asset-based classroom management techniques.

The problem – School Discipline and Crime

The advocates of the SRO removals is to reduce arrests. To review some facts from my previous post on that issue:

“Illiteracy and innumeracy show up in Middle School as discipline and attendance problems.

In the seven Richmond Middle Schools In 2017 – 2018 (last year data available), 1,216 of 4,356 students, (28%), were reported as discipline offenders. They committed 851 offenses against persons, including 57 against staff.

You can go here and click on summary data from school quality profiles. The discipline data are required by the federal Department of Education Office of Civil Rights. I have done it for you.

Richmond middle schools reported 353 school-related arrests out of 4,356 students; 309 Black student arrests out of 3,105 Black students. Ten percent of the Black students who started Middle School in Richmond in 2018 were arrested for school-related incidents.

One RPS elementary school, George Mason Elementary with less than 1,000 students, reported 14 student weapons-related violations in that same year.

Required by the same federal government Civil Rights Data Collection program to report incidents of harassment and bullying, RPS reported none. That means they have chosen not to compile/report the data. I have no idea how they have gotten away with it.”

The history of the Richmond schools SRO program is that cops were brought in to certain schools to stop in-school criminal activity that had resulted in shootings. The other goal was for students to meet cops in non-confrontational settings and get to understand that they were real people doing a job keeping people safe.

In the post-George Floyd era this policy is being reconsidered.

No one wants kids arrested that need not be.

The question is will the schools be safe without the cops. Who breaks up the fights among teens who are bigger and stronger than the teachers? Who stops gang activity in the schools? What is to be done about the guns and by whom?

We all hope the RPS school board gets it right.