School board to consider role of police at events

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By Jeremy P. Kelley
Staff Writer
Posted: 11:26 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016

Dayton’s school board plans to have a community meeting on the use of police at special events and school sports, after a heated debate on the issue at Tuesday night’s school board meeting.

Several speakers expressed concerns about overall police treatment of young black men and asked the school board to reconsider its contracts with local law enforcement. They referenced prominent police shootings around the nation, and a Fairborn officer’s recent suspension for joking about the death of a Black Lives Matter activist.

After all speakers were finished Tuesday night, School Board President Adil Baguirov suggested the board reconsider the issue at its March meeting. Board member Hazel Rountree instead called for a special meeting, solely on that topic. Baguirov agreed, and said that meeting could be scheduled for early March.

Racial Justice Now officials said they “can appreciate the idea of protecting young people and other community members. However, where we disagree is that the police provides that ‘protection’, especially in low-income Black communities.”

A statement from RJN Director Zakiya Sankara-Jabar to the school board added that “there is just too much at stake anytime armed police officers are involved with ‘keeping Black youth in line’ with fear and intimidation.”

Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl could not be reached for comment this morning, and Montgomery County Sheriff Phil Plummer declined comment, saying he was in a training session.

Speakers at Tuesday night’s meeting asked for the district to use “prevention and intervention strategies” rather than an armed police presence.

“For example DPS should be partnering with the City of Dayton and/or Montgomery County to implement a public and mental health approach to ‘violence,’ ” Sankara-Jabar said. “Investing in community intervention workers, restorative practices, conflict transformation and mediation are all proven strategies to deescalate hostile situations.”

DPS Superintendent Lori Ward said the school board had approved the police presence at games and special events after that recommendation was made by the district’s Athletic Board of Control. The law enforcement officers offer another layer of security on top of the school district’s own security officers.

“This was done in response to various fights that broke out and have had a very negative effect on the district and more widely on the city and the city’s image,” said school board President Adil Baguirov. “It’s only for sporting events. It’s not during regular school instruction hours.”

Tuesday’s meeting first got tense when Baguirov decided each speaker would get only 1 minute, rather than the usual 3 minutes to speak, because there were so many. Numerous people in the audience complained bitterly, saying the board was unwilling to hear their concerns. Baguirov ended up giving most speakers close to two minutes, and several continued with their comments after Baguirov asked them to wrap up.

When Anthony Roebuck, a local leader of Stop Mass Incarceration, took the board to task in loud tones, the board called for security officers.

Then Baguirov called for a recess and Ward tried to de-escalate the situation, moving security officers away from one speaker.

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