Schools and Cops in San Diego


Headline after Brown v School of Education decision in 1954


May 8, 2017 (San Diego) San Diego Police wants more overtime pay so they can cover patrol better and safer. At the same time, San Diego Unified is preparing to fire more teachers and other allied personnel. Some of those people receiving pink slips are campus police incidentally. Why would a school need armed police on campus is a question that sooner or later we will have to address as well. Others are librarians and teachers.

Technically the city budget and the school district budget are not the same. The city does not hire teachers, or school nurses, even if the school district actually does hire police officers. However, campus officers do not have jurisdiction in the city. This is important insofar as knowing who to complain to. The city has nothing to do with the school district budget, and generally speaking, the district has very little to do with the city. However, where teachers who are receiving pink slips are concentrated tell a story. Or for that matter that the city is considering the overtime proposal from the police department adds to this narrative.

What policy decisions tell us.

If SDUSD was handing down pink slips in an equal way, where teachers were equally at risk of losing their jobs in the inner city and La Jolla, that be one thing. But that is not the case. Partly this is the last in, first out policy for teachers. New teachers are assigned to urban core schools, such as Encanto. Incidentally, this area of town has over 90 percent of children who also receive a subsidized school lunch. This is according to Voice of San Diego.

Hence, the, more experienced teachers, who work at schools in more affluent areas with better test scores, will not face as many layoffs as these urban core schools. To make it even worst, most of these schools are grammar schools. Ergo, children at the most vulnerable stage of their education are the ones who are losing essential services and teachers in things like music, arts, and even math. They are going to get behind, and catching up is very difficult later on.

So we are handicapping these children’s by taking teachers away from them. We are also handicapping them by putting fewer resources into their education.

Then there is San Diego Police. They not only want more overtime because they do not have even close to the budgeted officer level, but it is the urban core that will be over-policed. No, SDPD will not send more officers to Rancho Bernardo. If they do, it is because somebody is retiring. They simply do not police the area north of the 8 as hard as they do the area south of the 8. Incidentally, that is where most minority communities live.

The message to the parents of the children attending the cities of the inner core is that their education is not as valuable to the school district, as that of the children in the wealthier areas of town. With the over policing, they are also sending a series of other messages about their perceived value in the society.

What does that tell us about segregation and city services? Segregation has been a reality of American life since the country was formed. The dichotomy of slave versus free existed from early on, and in some ways remains. We might not have slavery, but we do have a caste society. This is why the people who have been relegated, though the now-illegal practices of redlining, to poorly served neighborhoods have to fight twice as hard to get an art class than those living in areas that are wealthier, and with better access to the political system. This continues a historic trend, where people have services such as schools reduced. While at the same time they have things like police go into the neighborhoods looking for gang bangers, and other miscreants. Police, we know this since the data for SDPD does exist, will racially profile those living south of the 8 as well.

San Diego is not as segregated as let’s say, New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. The census data shows that it is less segregated. However, we still live in a segregated town. The effects of this segregation are clear to any who will open their eyes. Fewer teachers in Encanto are a symptom of this segregation.

While it is important what pot the money comes from for what, so people can go to the proper authorities, the effect is the same. Civil rights were also about segregated schools. Getting the vote for people of color should have put a lot of that to bed, but it has not. If anything, due to white flight to the suburbs, we are in a similar place we were in the 1950s. Because new teachers are assigned to inner core schools, not equality across the school system, those schools will be hit the hardest when teachers are fired. Just the idea that new teachers are assigned to inner core schools, while more experienced ones can opt out of the inner core, and go teach in La Jolla should be jarring to most people. This means that we are handicapping those schools in every respect possible and making sure their performance is lower from the get go. Then we punish those schools for being under performing.

Over the last two decades many of the gains made during the height of the civil rights era, and soon after have been reversed. Communities of color are losing access to good education, and city services. Moreover, those neighborhoods are food deserts, with barely no jobs, and fewer city services such as firefighters. However, these neighborhoods also have the highest level of curfew enforcement, which is crazy when you think about it.

No other country does this, but we do in the failed belief that curfew will keep minors, mostly teenagers, out of trouble, and out of gangs. The problem is that this curfew affects minorities particularly hard, and gives these kids a record with the legal system. They have a choice, they can either do the time as it were or pay for diversion programs to erase that record. These programs are not necessarily cheap, but many parents do not want their children to be involved in the legal system. Moreover, a 7 or 8-year-old learns soon after going to school, that this school is not as important as that of the white kids north of the 8. At 13 or 15 he or she ends up cuffed, in the back of a black and white, on the way to a command post. What kind of a message is that youth getting? It is also the beginning of the school to prison pipeline, which is also well documented. 

Some of the people touched by the system have internalized it and accept it as normal. So going back to the decisions made by both the city and the SDUSD. They are not connected at the level of who makes the fine decisions in the budget. They come from two different pots as it were. But they are connected in how systemic they are. We are sending a very clear and loud signal to peoples of color in the inner core. We will (over) police you, while we prevent you from getting the education you need to get out of that place you are at. It is a form of segregation that the country has used for many decades. Brown v Board of Education was decided on equality of education. However, our children in the inner core are not getting the same education as the children in Rancho Bernardo, It is not just the tax base. The money going to SDUSD is used by them in unequal ways. Just because it has always been done this way, does not mean it is the way it should be done. In fact, it is the time the district figures a way to get a more proportional distribution, not just of funds, but also of experienced teachers. The high concentration of inexperienced teachers in the urban core sets the schools up for failure in those schools as well.

As to SDPD, it has it’s well documented issued. These include over policing and racial profiling. So it is time for the police to face the structural issues as to why it does what it does. Both are symbols of the structural racism we face in the city of San Diego, and the erasure of gains made during the civil rights era. It is as if the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60 never happened.


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