State superintendent announces plans to study effect of police on school campuses

California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond outlined Wednesday the state's plans to analyze data on policing in schools.

Thurmond said state education officials will review a swath of research and data on how the presence of police officers on campus affects public school students. Thurmond acknowledged that studies have already shown that having police on campus leads to more suspensions and arrests of students, and black students in particular.

Thurmond also announced that he established a task force of legislators, researchers, advocacy groups and law enforcement representatives that will focus on the effect of police officers on school campuses.

"We recognize this is a complicated issue," Thurmond said. "There should never be a time when anyone is in a position to criminalize our kids."

He added, "At the same time, we recognize, and the research supports this, that we still have to figure out ways to address issues like police shootings, guns on campus, bomb threats on campus."

Some school districts around the state, including the Oakland Unified School District, have considered removing law enforcement officers from campuses entirely as the nation reckons with the state of local policing.

Thurmond said he plans to watch the OUSD Board of Education's vote later Wednesday closely and noted that the issue is more complicated than simply removing police from school campuses to maintain student safety.

"They have the task, as I see it, to do a great thing to say that they don't want the criminalization of students," Thurmond said. "They also have to think through, if there's not going to be police on campus, what will the alternatives be and how will they have safety?"

Thurmond argued that some school districts across the state have made similar decisions to remove or disband on-campus police forces without replacing them with an alternative resource, leading to on-campus law enforcement being reinstated.

The OUSD Board is expected to vote on the proposal to dismantle its police force at its 4 p.m. meeting Wednesday.

The state Department of Education, Thurmond announced, also plans to hold a series of webinars on ethnic studies and how to be aware of racial bias. The webinars will be open to students, their families and teachers across the state who aim to learn more about historically oppressed populations and demographics.

Thurmond said he plans to announce more details about the webinar series next week.

"As our state and nation confronts difficult conversations about racial justice, it's evident that schools are uniquely positioned to tackle some of these issues head-on," he said. "Like our communities, our schools are also reckoning with the best ways to navigate police reform and an honest accounting with our nation's complex history."