Mark Neumann: Put Counselors not Cops in our Schools

Dr. Mark Neumann, who’s running against U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, says he supports removing police from local schools.

The La Crosse school board will vote Monday on forming a subcommittee that would investigate other ways to spend the $250,000 the district currently uses to put police officers in middle and high schools.

Neumann, who is facing Rep. Kind in the Aug. 11 Democratic primary for the 3rd Congressional District, said he hoped the district would remove police from its schools.

“More school counsellors, that’d be a good idea.” Neumann told the La Crosse Independent. “Let’s use those resources in a way that’s going to be more helpful to the children.”

The use of police in schools is being challenged across the country in the wake of the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, which ignited waves of protest.

Many of those protesting are arguing that years of tinkering with police reforms to tackle systemic racism and violence have been a failure, and the only remaining solution is to defund the police.

“I think that defunding for me makes a lot of sense from the perspective of let’s put those resources in the direction of other skilled agencies, where they can do the work way better than a guy carrying a gun can,” Neumann said in an interview on Friday.

He  added that he hoped Floyd’s murder and the reaction to it would mark a turning point away from racism and violence.

“You know stuff builds up for a long time and then it breaks but in this case we’ve had stuff building up for 400 years,” he said, adding that police have become increasingly militarized “controllers of society and ultimately controllers become oppressors.”

School districts in Minneapolis, Seattle, Portland and Denver have made moves to remove police from schools amid a broader backlash against police sparked by Floyd’s murder.

In La Crosse, the school district’s contract with the police department expires in June, 2021. The school board is expected to vote Monday on looking at other ways of spending the $250,000 that funds the contract with police, if it was not renewed. Options could include hiring social workers, counsellors or helping to pay for various school programs.

La Crosse School Board president Dr. Laurie Cooper Stoll noted at last Monday’s school board meeting that there is no conclusive evidence that having police in schools makes them safer. 

“However, there is ample evidence to show that it makes black and brown students less safe,” Cooper Stoll added.

The out-of-school suspension rate for black students is five times higher than that of white students in the La Crosse School District, an issue Cooper Stoll and the district’s new superintendent Aaron Engel have pledged to address.

Monday’s school board meeting can be streamed at this link. Rep. Kind’s office has not responded to a request to comment on the issue of police in schools and the movement to defund the police. We will update this story if his office provides a statement.

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