New proposal gives students with school disciplinary records the power to set all school safety policies and to recommend firing their teachers
Freedom Inc. proposal would open a “wellness grant for frequently disciplined youth,” literally paying students who act up so badly that a teacher needs to call the police
January 4, 2021
By Lexi Dittrich
Freedom, Inc., the same group that shielded rioters from police during the violence we witnessed on Madison’s State Street last summer, now has an official seat at the school safety table of the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD). Under their new proposal to MMSD’s School Safety and Security Ad Hoc Committee, students with disciplinary records would have complete power over school safety and accountability policies, including the discipline of teachers who call the police for help if they feel in danger.
On June 29, 2020, MMSD school board voted unanimously to end the MMSD school resource officer (SRO) contract with the Madison Police Department. SROs are police officers that have specialized training to work in schools and are stationed in a school or a district. School board President, Gloria Reyes, a former police officer, had advocated for police in schools in the past, but now she’s the one spearheading this shift away from the officers.
The unanimous vote to remove the officers came just a few weeks after protesters with Freedom, Inc. harassed and intimidated Reyes at her home and littered her lawn with desecrated American flags (see the shocking video here).
In place of police officers in schools, MMSD created the School Safety and Security Ad Hoc Committee and appointed members on August 3. Similar to the role of Madison’s new Police Civilian Oversight Board, the group will recommend new school safety policies to the MMSD school board.
One of the members appointed to the ad hoc committee is Bianca Gomez, the Gender Justice Coordinator and Co-Director of Youth Organizing for Freedom, Inc. Gomez is a radical activist with Freedom, Inc. who believes in removing cops from schools and, ultimately, abolishing the police.
“We tried community policing. We tried black people building relationships with officers and officers building relationships with black people. We tried hiring officers of color. We tried more training for the police, and none of those things have been able to stop putting us in jail, to stop killing us, to stop sexually assaulting us, to stop harming our communities,” Gomez said during a Freedom, Inc. livestream in June.
To get what they want, Gomez sees looting, rioting, and violence as “completely righteous, completely justified” parts of their “righteous rebellions.”
Rather than trusting police to do their jobs, Gomez prefers vigilante justice. “I believe in a transformative ass-whoopin’, if I know you out here molesting girls, young girls in the Madison community,” she said in June. “I think that’s revolutionary self-defense, I do not think that’s violence.”
Instead of law enforcement officers keeping the peace in the school district, Gomez and Freedom, Inc. have proposed their “community control” school safety model, where students themselves make the rules and discipline school employees, like teachers, who try to call the police for help.
Their proposal would create a permanent accountability committee, run by a representative from Freedom, Inc. and by six students, who have a record of being disciplined in school before. The students would pick four more “trusted adult” members of the committee, and then MMSD will pay for two staff to support their work.
The proposed committee, again, run by students with a prior record of being disciplined, would “Have complete decision-making power over school safety and accountability policies within the DISTRICT’s schools.” That includes unilateral power to remove any disciplinary policies that members think are discriminatory.
The committee will instead institute “transformative justice” policies with no punishment measures for students who act up or bring danger into the classroom. Quite the opposite, the proposal would let problem students apply for a “wellness grant for frequently disciplined youth,” literally paying the students for acting up in a way that would warrant a teacher or school staff to call the police.
The student-lead committee would also get to decide if and when police are allowed on campus and under what rules/conditions.
If a teacher calls the police on a student, the teacher and student involved will submit reports to the committee so members can decide if the call was justified. If the committee subjectively agrees that the police shouldn’t have been called, then the committee can decide how to discipline the teacher. That discipline could mean recommending the teacher be placed on leave or fired.
The committee would also create mandatory training sessions for MMSD staff in areas like “The history of policing in our public education system; Anti-Black racism; Transformative Justice,” and “Decolonizing School Curriculum: Confronting colonial practices and undoing them and moving towards a culturally vibrant and accessible knowledge sharing that centers the community.”
The Freedom, Inc. proposal is dangerous for the school district, the teachers, and the students. Teachers could be fired on a whim for calling the police for help, or, alternatively, teachers and students would be put in harm’s way because they are scared of what the committee will do if someone calls the police.