Now is the time to reverse decisions and educate ourselves before it is too late.

By Editorial Board

Entering this school year, we are faced as a community with an unusual set of obstacles. These include, but are not limited to mounting political tensions during the approach of a presidential election, a global pandemic bearing down on our health system and economy, widespread challenge of the United States police system and most pressing for many students right now, the struggle to adapt to digital learning. Despite what might seem like an unfixable mess of a year, we are being given a unique chance to achieve long-lasting positive change and learn from new challenges.

Whether it be educating yourself on political or humanitarian issues, watching presidential debates, learning how to sew a mask or memorizing the script to an entire TV show, we all have something to show for the time we have spent at home. Luckily, the school is still giving us time to adequately prepare to return to the building. When it comes to COVID, we as a staff applaud the school for taking appropriate measures to keep students safe. They learned, they listened and they informed the parents and students about their decision.

If this year has taught us a general lesson, it is that we cannot always understand the lives of others. Even still, we must try. Keeping students, teachers and UA families safe should be a top priority when we cannot know who is immunocompromised, who may be a carrier and who is allegedly safe.

The district has recognized this and carried through, but we are still waiting for them to make change elsewhere. Looking at all the things going on in our community, if we want to make the best of this time, we have to reflect, we must begin to see the break from “normal” as a chance to change what normal looks like.

This summer, students took to the streets of Columbus and UA to stand for the Black Lives Matter movement, created social media accounts to show the district the true experience of being in the building and met on Zoom meetings to educate one another and learn from one another about what the next steps are for the schools.

This is where we ask the district to learn from now.

Living in a city like Upper Arlington, with a 91.5% white population, a large segment of our population may not feel pressed to take personal stake in the mistreatment of people of color by police officers, or to notice the subtle ways that it is visible in our own community. With simple research, though, it’s easy to find that some students are much more likely to be marginalized by Student Resource Officers in schools.

In fact, Black girls in schools are four times more likely to be arrested than white girls and Black and Latino boys with disabilities make up 12% of all student arrests despite being only 3% of enrolled students nationwide.

From comments on Facebook to arrest rates of people of color, we have learned that some officers are capable of complacent racism, and when criticized did not do everything in their power to correct it, we are faced with a decision, do we want our schools to legitimize and incorporate this type of culture in our buildings?

If the answer is no, then we need to look at the way that police and race are addressed in our schools, starting with police and staff expectations, and continuing with long term education and training to help those interacting with students to understand how to provide racial equity in the classroom, and how to facilitate an environment that demands the acknowledgement and active participation needed for breaking down racial inequality.

Knowing that we won’t be in person for at least a sizable portion of this school year, now is the time to terminate the current contract between UA City Schools and the UAPD. Not only would this allow an increase in safety by reallocating this funding into mental health initiatives to stop school shootings before they happen, it would affirm the district’s commitment to their students and their comfort in the building.

There are times for the police to create relationships with children but in a building where kids are meant to be educated and learn empathy is not one of them. Let us use this societal reset as an opportunity to participate in our nation’s demand for equality, starting with the removal of police from our schools and attention to the voices of students.