“The safety of kids must be a top priority, but I question if continuing to fund SROs is the most effective way to make our schools safer,” Redding said.
According to the Youth Justice Campaign's 2019 "racial equity report cards," Black students were 13.9 times more likely than white students to receive a short-term suspension in Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools.
That same year, Black students in Orange County Schools were 3.2 times more likely to face suspension than their white counterparts.
Redding urged the board to examine data on SROs, and consider how the presence of these officers may affect everything from pupils' emotional states to the school-to-prison pipeline.
Elvira Mebane, a member of the Orange County Board of Elections, said that SROs can be a “very positive role model” for school children, and asked that if the board and the sheriff’s department explore alternative school safety methods, they do so with the intent of placing alternative adult role models in schools.
Schools and policing were not attendees' only concerns.
Horace Johnson Jr., the son of Hillsborough’s first Black mayor, Horace Johnson Sr., expressed his concern over a lack of diversity on the BOCC.
“There has to be a more inclusive makeup of the board in order to address the real issues of people of color,” Johnson said.
Commissioner Renee Price, the Board's vice-chairperson and only member of color, was absent from the session due to a death in the family. Annette Moore read a statement from Price in her absence.
Commissioner Mark Dorosin said the board will assess all the public comments made last night and “follow up.”
Some speakers, such as Redding, and Anna Richards, the branch president of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP, urged the board to listen to let Black voices, Black organizations and Black leaders lead Orange County's discussion of systemic racism.
Richards asked the board to review the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP's six-point plan for law enforcement reform as the board considers how to dismantle systemic racism in Orange County.
The plan covers accountability on use of force, police records transparency, hiring of police officers, investment in communities, removing police from schools and an overall reimagined concept of justice.
Tameka Tisdale-Williams, an administrative assistant at the UNC School of Medicine, said although she appreciate's the board's efforts, without action, the listening session feels like an “empty gesture.”
“As a person of color and resident of Orange County, I would have been much more impressed if you did a reflective study on the impact of systemic racism within our county and brought a list of the structures, systems, policies and procedures that foster disproportionality and inequity in Orange County, and allow the community to listen to you as you tell us how you are going to tackle these structures,” she said.
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