Progress and next steps in passage of a landmark new MOU between SFUSD and SFPD

Last night was an important milestone in a multi-year, community-driven effort to transform the relationship between police and the San Francisco school community. Responding to concern from students, parents and community members that unnecessary police involvement pushes students into the juvenile justice system and out of school each year, SFUSD and SFPD signed an agreement designed to dramatically reduce police presence on campus and prevent unnecessary student referrals to the juvenile justice system. The new MOU was unanimously passed by the Board of Education last night, with some very important amendments. The BOE amendments further strengthen the MOU and also restore a key provision that was removed by the SF Police Department legal counsel only a few hours before the Board’s vote, without any input from community or the District.  We are hopeful that the SFPD Chief will quickly sign the MOU with the Board Amendments requested last night that would ensure that:

1. the graduated response system (a model that has resulted in dramatic reductions in school-based juvenile arrests in other districts where it has been implemented) is REQUIRED and followed and NOT optional,

2. SROs and other police interacting with students receive and participate in one free training from the District in restorative justice/practices each year,

3. the parents truly have reasonable time to get to the school and be present if their child is being questioned by police, and

4. the provision regarding arrests on campus is strong and clear that such arrests should only occur as a very last resort and only if absolutely necessary to avoid disruption of instruction at school and protect student privacy

 Coleman Advocates, Public Counsel, the San Francisco Youth Commission, HOMEY, United Playaz, Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center, and CHALK worked hard to ensure that the MOU development was truly informed by the experiences and perspectives of affected youth.

 We are in the final stretch of this groundbreaking endeavor and we are thrilled that the Board has approved the MOU and that they are insisting on these final changes so that the document has the necessary teeth to ensure that student’s and parent’s rights and dignity are respected, that evidence-based strategies are fully and consistently utilized, and that our efforts result in a meaningful reduction in student arrests and police presence on campus.

We are counting on this MOU to put the responsibility for student behavior back where it belongs, with educators, students and parents, not with police!

Some additional information about the problem the MOU seeks to address: 

The American Psychological Association, the Council of State of Governments, and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention have all found that extreme discipline, including arrests, predicts grade retention, school dropout, and future involvement in the juvenile and criminal justice systems.[i]

Research shows that a first-time arrest doubles the chances that a student will drop out of high school, and a first-time court appearance quadruples those chances.[i] According to records obtained in a public records request filed by Coleman Advocates and Public Counsel, more than 460 students were arrested on campus between 2010 and 2013, the vast majority for low-level and nonviolent offenses. In many cases, the police were called but a formal arrest was not made.

The data also exposes a troubling racial gap in arrests. African American young people were 39% of all students arrested on campus in the past three years, even though they are just 8% of San Francisco students. African American young people were 43% of all juvenile arrests by SFPD in the past three years.

SFPD records show arrested students as young as ages 8-12, with arrests spiking at age 13. Since 2010, 60 students ages 12 or younger have been arrested at school.

San Francisco police officers are also called in to address school discipline matters that do not involve threats to students or school staff or criminal behavior. Police have been called to intervene in discipline for SFUSD elementary school students as young as 5 years old.

The primary changes in the new MOU:

The MOU between the San Francisco Police Department and San Francisco Unified School District allows schools to request police involvement on campus to protect students and staff, to address criminal behavior by non-students, or where required by law. But it puts a strict limit on police involvement in student discipline that can and should be handled at school.

The agreement also:

  • helps protect the privacy and dignity of students who are interviewed by school police as witnesses, victims, or potential offenders;
  • ensures that parents are contacted and can be present if a police officer is interviewing a student;
  • directs school administrators to handle all discipline-related problems at the school-site;
  • reiterates that disciplining students is a school, not police, responsibility;
  • sets up a system of graduated responses for police, starting with a warning, for low-level offenses, so that those can be handled with prevention and intervention and not a trip to juvenile court or jail; and
  • develops an oversight process for students and parents to provide feedback and address issues related to conduct of any school police or security on campus to ensure positive engagement.

The agreement also helps ensure regular communication with the community about what is happening with police on campuses through quarterly reports from SFPD and SFUSD to the school board that include demographic data about students involved with police on campus, the number of times SFPD officers were called to schools and arrests made, efforts to use alternatives such as a referral to mental health, wellness centers, and other resource facilities, instead of arrest or citation and efforts to reduce racially disproportionate contact with police and the juvenile justice system and reduce the rate of school-based arrests and citations while maintaining a safe school climate.

When approved, the agreement will help keep more students out of the school-to-prison pipeline and stand as a model for how schools and police departments can work together to improve school climate while reducing student arrests, police contact and citations.

Media coverage about the MOU: 

San Francisco takes lead in defining role of school police, sets limits on interrogations and arrests (Center for Public Integrity)

SFUSD considers restricting police role on school campuses (Ed Source)

SFUSD to consider agreement with police to limit arrests in disciplinary cases (SF Examiner)

SFUSD students may get new police protections (Bay Guardian)

For more information about next steps in this important effort, contact Kevine Boggess at

JAN 15, 2014