EUGENE, Ore. -- The Eugene School District 4J school board's Wednesday decision to remove police officers stationed inside their schools come 2021 still leaves room for the possibility of police involvement in some form.
After a nationwide reckoning with systemic racism after the death of George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer in Minneapolis, school districts are now debating if school resource officers disproportionately discipline people of color.
In a 6-1 vote, the school board approved a motion to renew their contract with the Eugene Police Department for just six months, with school resource officers not returning after Dec. 31. The board also approved a 30-day escape clause in the contract.
Between now and then, the board will take extensive public comment into account while crafting a new school safety policy.
According to board chair Mary Walston, between demands to address systemic racism and the district's contract with EPD coming to an end, it made sense to take action.
"The contract was going to expire, so we needed to do something one way or another. It was the right time to act," she said. "Obviously if there was an incident, we still have the option of calling 911, which we would do anyway. So that's a process we are going to be working through, talking about again, what that model would look like, how do we best ensure the safety of our students."
Martina Shabram proposed the amendment to remove school resource officers from schools. During the meeting, she said that while the status quo must change, the police may be involved in the district's ultimate solution.
"We are going to create something new. I don't know if that will include some contract with the city for EPD services, but I don't think we can include the exact model as it exists now," she said.
Eugene Police Chief Chris Skinner said that the department is willing to come up with new solutions in order to meet whatever needs 4J decides on, but they have not yet been involved in any discussions on school safety.
"We can get creative, but part of being creative means we have to be invited to the table to have this conversation. To this date, we have not been involved in any dialog about creative solutions," he said.
However, Skinner emphasized the importance of allowing police to investigate and identify threats to safety.
"It really concerns me, lacking a contract that has that capability. It leaves our schools, our kids and our staff vulnerable," he said.
The 4J school board will present the framework of their school safety plan at their Aug. 5 meeting.