Group That Pushed to End SJ School Contract with Police Seeks More Student Counselors

A coalition of students, parents, teachers and advocates from within the San Jose Unified School District who successfully pushed the district to end a $1 million-plus contract with the San Jose Police Department last week said their fight is just beginning.

The coalition, known as the San Jose Unified Equity Coalition, is now advocating for the funding to be reinvested into hiring more school counselors and programs that better reach troubled students.

“I'm really excited that San Jose Unified finally (ended the contract)- and I'm saying finally because I'm actually not here to give them a pat on the back," said Latoya Fernandez, a restorative justice practitioner and founder of YouthHype. "I'm glad they finally did what needed to be done. But that's not where this ends."

The coalition wants the district’s board to pass the Derrick Sanderlin resolution that was drafted last year during the George Floyd protests before students come back to campus in August.

Sanderlin is a San Jose-based community leader who provided implicit-bias training and procedural-justice training to incoming San Jose police officers for three years and who was shot and injured by a rubber bullet from police at a May 29, 2020, protest against police brutality.

“He represents how much our communities have attempted to work with San Jose PD," said Eduardo Valladares, a San Jose High School teacher and co-author of the resolution."But, San Jose PD has not held up their part of the deal.”

Valladares said police are a scary presence on campus for students and removing them was an important step to prevent Black and Brown children from having their first entry into the criminal-legal system from occurring on campus.

“But we need support systems like counselors that are a proactive safety measure that addresses the real issues that this country is dealing with,” he said.

The coalition said schools need to move toward less-punitive responses and understand why students may be acting out.

“When you ask students these questions about what's going on with them, you'll find out this," Fernandez said."I haven't eaten a meal in over 12 hours. I did not sleep last night because I have younger siblings out watching while my parents worked third shift. I haven't had clean clothes in two weeks.”

She said students who act out aren’t bad in nature but rather responding to trauma that is coming from a lack of access to resources.

The resolution calls on the school district to redistribute funds formerly used for police offers to student support positions such as hiring counselors, school-based social workers, psychologists and other mental and behavioral professionals.

The resolution “is a safety plan that supports transformative change in our schools,” said Valladares, who has two children in the district.

In a Friday letter announcing the vote to remove campus police, district Superintendent Nancy Albarran said she worried the plan may have negative consequences, especially when it comes to supporting assault victims or suppressing illegal firework activity.

As a result, she said the district would likely need to “reduce or eliminate large-scale events for public safety purposes as law enforcement support will no longer be available.”

Proponents of keeping officers on campus also worry that their off-campus presence would be detrimental in cases of active shooter situations or intruders.

Nisreen Younis, a Juvenile Division Supervising Attorney at the Public Defender's office said police do not need to be on campus to respond to criminal issues.

“The San Jose Police Department, as evidenced by their swift response during recent events, are ready to respond to any active shooter situation, whether on or off a school campus, whether they have a specific name program or not,” Younis said.

Younis said that having police on campus instead resulted in districts relying on officers as a “one-stop shop” to dealing with pregnancy, domestic violence, vaping and LGBTQ issues.

“We know that most of these incidents can be addressed using the Education Code, which provides a fair amount of discretion rather than the Penal Code,” Younis said.

She said as an attorney who represents youth, she has seen firsthand how police on campus leads to negative long-term consequences.

The Derrick Sanderlin resolution also calls on campuses to adopt ethnic studies courses as well as create ant-racist policies and trainings to end the school-to-prison pipeline.

“Ethnic studies is more than students learning non-white history or content,” said Hoover Middle School teacher Evelyn Cervantes, who also co-authored the resolution. “It entails exploring and affirming every part of ourselves, dissecting systems in which we live in, practicing ways of involving ourselves in our community and showing solidarity and dismantling white supremacy and all the ‘isms.’ “

In recent years, school districts across Santa Clara County have ended their contracts with police departments.

In the last year, the Alum Rock Union and East Side Union High School districts also voted against renewing their contracts with city police.

  Jana Kadah is a reporter with Bay City News Service.



  1. Thanks to Jana Kadah for the informative reporting.

    Just for purposes of comparing how students living on the West Side in higher-elevation and higher-income zip codes are disciplined and treated, here is the Code of Conduct for Los Gatos High School:

    Note that Level 1–Level IV offenses are handled by teachers and/or administration. Level 5 offenses, that include waving a knife at another person; possessing an explosive; selling a controlled substance; possessing or selling a firearm; sexual assault or sexual battery, result in suspension from the school and are reported to the police department–they have no police on campus. Also note that there are five therapists available to the approximately 2,100 students every day of the school year (see What a difference a zip code makes.

    Counselors, psychologists and social workers can go a long way in serving the needs of students from hard-pressed working families who have few resources and face high-pressure challenges. But developing a culture of looking out for each other, of social solidarity among students, teachers and administrators on all campuses, may also be effective in addressing the psycho-social and material needs of students and their families. Police would only be needed as a last resort and in only the most extreme of circumstances and, as noted by Ms. Younis, generally respond quickly to emergencies.

  2. Salem’s observation about the lack of campus police at one school versus another reminds me of a question once posed by a first time visitor to the Italian Family Festa, a local who’d attended a number of Cinco de Mayo festivals.

    “Where are all the cops?”

  3. “Where are all the cops?” Eating Mexican food at the Cinco de Mayo Festival obviously. Italian is good but Mexican is fantastico (and far less expensive). If there were a doughnut festival, all the cops would be at that one, of course.

  4. Silicon Valley FACES, a defunct and corrupt organization run by Tuyen Fiack who was President of the Silicon Valley Police Association, used county monies for camps that were punitive and detrimental and used police officers. There were incidents of suicide attempts that forced the closure of SV FACES. The Board was made aware and did nothing, and most members resigned until Tuyen ran the agency into the ground while conveniently moving on to YWCA to run another students program. Why the Board of Supervisors did not investigate what went on there is a million dollar question.

  5. “If there were a doughnut festival, all the cops would be at that one, of course.” — Salem

    Despite Salem’s high-minded tone when supporting the termination of contracted police services (in the first comment) it required only the slightest breeze to reveal the disdain beneath the smokescreen of goodwill.

    But since Salem likes comparisons, let’s not lose sight of the fact that at one time, not so long ago, there were no cops on campus at SJUSD schools, nor was there any effort by police to convince them otherwise. Back then, the level of police services was identical to that at Los Gatos High. What changed? Well, since there were only two relevant factors, the student body and the staff, one, or a combination of the two, must have changed. Since we know the quality of teachers produced by our educational system has declined we might point the finger there, but since the change has left LGH unaffected we must rule out the teachers and turn out attention to the only suspect left standing, the student body. Of course, fairness requires that we remember it is parents who produce students, and because it costs them nothing to teach their children good manners, decency, and respect for authority, that their children forced the school district to staff cops is an indictment of them.

    Maybe the million saved by cutting out the cops should be spent teaching SJUSD parents how to responsibly parent.

  6. Didn’t the school district used to contract with a similar organization the Silicon Valley FACES with cops in their camps, and later ran out of business after Tuyen Fiack took over, who also represented the SJ Police Association? Follow the money folks.

  7. So not so long ago there were no cops on the east side campus much like the west side. Hey Salem nice spin and your anti cop disdain is quite palpable. Lets see how this plays out. Perhaps a replay of what happened that led up to the policing of the schools. Now you and the parents need to pull up your big pants and get your kids act together and act civilized toward each other on campus. I suspect more bad apples will be shipped out to the surrounding “community high schools” that’s code for housing the nortenos, surenos and thugs who don’t play well with others. Maybe now that there are no cops those thugs will feel safer to learn. LOL

  8. “Tuyen Fiack took over, who also represented the SJ Police Association? Follow the money folks.” — Sally Lal

    “Represented” the SJPOA? Says who? She wasn’t a police officer, as all members are, nor was she an attorney employed by the POA, so either explain what would motivate you to be so wrong (in your attempt to stain the reputation of officers who worked side jobs for the school district) or acquiesce to being identified as having no credibility.

    Follow the lies, folks.

  9. Why not have school districts fund and operate a school police department as LA does?

    Currently San Jose residents fund police and school crossing guards through SJPD’s budget. This includes school districts that extend beyond the city limits. Hayward schools reduced their crossing guard cost by almost 50% after switching to a private contractor.

    Given SJ’s $28 million deficit, residents should be demanding school districts pay their own costs. Additionally, more sworn officers will be available to address SJPD’s slow response time, investigation, and prevention duties.

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