Story by Haelee Kim
Photo by Oscar Walsh
The South Pasadena School Board officially ended the use of narcotic dogs in the South Pasadena Unified School District (SPUSD) during a virtual meeting on Tuesday, June 9. The board members reacted to a local campaign organized by the South Pasadena Youth for Police Reform (SPY4PR) group, and adopted a new resolution in response to the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement.
Community members voiced their opposition to the narcotic dogs and its discriminatory practice.
“With seniors in AP classes, I have found that my classes are often passed over or excused in the drug searches with the drug dogs,” SPHS social studies teacher Maryann Nielsen said. “While I appreciate the lack of uninterruption, it seems that my mostly white and Asian students are seen to not be using or selling drugs on campus, while other Black and Latinx students are targeted (intentionally or not), in their non-honors or AP classes.”
SPY4PR, a group recently created by SPHS alumni in light of BLM, started the fight against narcotic dogs. The organization led the local, peaceful protests and has curated a list of additional SPPD reforms that they plan to bring to the City Council.
“We have, for decades, perpetuated the outdated 1990s-era theory of ‘super predator,’ which states that some children are bound for a life of criminality,” SPY4PR wrote in a public comment to the school board. “As the district faces the incredibly tough decisions of expenditures to be cut, we urge you to discontinue this racist, expensive [use of drug dogs] that only widens the barrier to opportunity for our most vulnerable.”
The School Board and Superintendent Geoff Yantz recognized the public’s demands, with board member Jon Primuth sitting down with SPY4PR before the meeting to listen to its proposed policy changes. In response, the School Board officially ended a contract with the SPPD for the use of narcotic dogs in SPHS and SPMS classrooms.
Board members also emphasized their responsibility to prevent microaggressions and racist attacks against students of color. They amended the proposed BLM resolution to specifically support Black and Latinx students instead of the previously worded version of “all students.” The board recognized the steps SPUSD had taken to become more inclusive, but also acknowledged that there was still more work to be done.
“I am very proud of the multi-ethnic studies class [but] let’s push harder. That’s ninth grade and there is so much more that we can and should be doing, starting much earlier in these kids’ educational careers,” School Board President Dr. Michele Kipke said. “[We are] invested in having those conversations in the coming months.”
The School Board will vote to approve and adopt SPUSD’s 2020-2021 budget at its next meeting on Tuesday, June 23.