This story was originally published by Chalkbeat Colorado. More at chalkbeat.org.
As school districts around the country grapple with the role of officers in schools, Aurora Public Schools is renegotiating an agreement with a police department that has been the subject of intense public scrutiny.
District officials say they aren’t expecting much to change in the agreement, but some students and parents say it’s time to reconsider whether police belong in schools at all.
“You have the gun and all of that, the taser,” said Ashley Agyepong, a 16-year-old Aurora student, at a recent youth forum. “You see what’s happening on the TV and you never think of it, but then it hits you. Reality sets in. It can happen here.”
As protests roiled the country after the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, demonstrators in Colorado renewed calls for justice for Elijah McClain, a young man who died after Aurora police restrained him and paramedics injected him with ketamine, a sedative.
Throughout the summer, police clashed with protesters, in one case breaking up a vigil by violinists for McClain, and new incidents of police overreach raised questions about the department’s culture.
In one incident in August, police approached a Black family in their vehicle in a parking lot after the plates were incorrectly flagged as stolen and ordered the mother and children to lie on the ground at gunpoint. Some were handcuffed. The youngest child was 6.
Neighboring Denver adopted a plan early in June to remove school resource officers, who are armed and sworn police officers, from its high schools, but the push hasn’t gained much traction in suburban communities.
Board members in Aurora made clear they would not “be followers,” and expressed less concern about their situation, which they said is different than Denver’s.