Stop Criminalizing & Start Helping: Remove School Resource Officers & Law Enforcement from San Jose Schools, Invest In Our Future Now!

Editor's Note:

De-Bug youth organizers are made up of students from Alum Rock, East Side, Santa Clara & San Jose Unified school districts. In this bold letter of demands and powerful testimonies, they demand a school without law enforcement for not only themselves – but the future generations of kids in their neighborhoods.

As students of Alum Rock, East Side, Santa Clara, & San Jose Unified school districts we want School Resource Officers (SROs) and all law enforcement off of our campuses - we don’t feel safe with them. We demand that our schools terminate contracts with SRO’s & police departments. End the criminalization of students and dismantle the school-to­-prison pipeline. We would like to see our schools invest in the following: 

  • Counseling for students with mental health issues 
  • Basic resources for students in need: food, clothing, shelter
  • Cultural studies of our people - Latino / Chicano / African American / Asian studies 
  • Curriculums that include financial literacy, vocational training, & community organizing 
  • Smaller classes - to build better relationships with our teachers
  • Food - having a proper lunch that is healthy and gives us the energy to learn 

Thank you, 

De-Bug Youth Organizers, 2020

Alondra, Abraham Lincoln High School - C/O 2020

Last year I finished my senior year at Abraham Lincoln High School. I went to middle school at Renaissance Academy at Mathson and I encountered different things while going there. There weren’t SROs at Renaissance but cops would always be down the street waiting to come to our school. My friends and I always tried to stay together - we wouldn't walk anywhere by ourselves - we were always on our toes in case we encountered the police. Once, the police followed us for 3-4 days trying to ask us questions. They made us feel like we had done something wrong. We couldn't wear stitching, certain colors. Another time the police stopped the whole class and questioned every one to see if we were in gangs.

This is wrong - we should be able to feel safe in our campus - and outside, in our own neighborhoods where we live. When I think of my little sister or other kids in that neighborhood with police on campus - it makes me feel worried - because elementary students are just kids. Boys are very active, and they call attention to themselves more easily - they get seen as something that they’re not. If they get confronted by police, they don’t know how to react - police are grown men, they are bigger than children, it’s intimidating. My sisters and her friends know about all this police violence that we keep seeing everywhere - if they see that - what are they going to do when they encounter the police at their school and in their neighborhood? 

I would like to see a program of mentors that are not connected to the police nor the administrators on school campus. These mentors will go the extra mile for you to better understand and help you. If they are not connected to the school or police they will feel more comfortable in opening up to receive help. They won’t be afraid.

Jalissa, Silvercreek High School + Foothill High School - C/O 2021

I feel uncomfortable with SROs on campus. I experienced constant harassment and monitoring at Silver Creek High School from 2017-2019. The administration and police worked together to always profile me and my friends. It made me uncomfortable. They always kept an eye out on me. This creates a hostile environment. They only follow me and my friends to see if I’m doing anything bad. They keep tabs on us, and watch us  inside and outside of school. 

One time the administration and an SRO told me that “this color” is really common on me and they said it was “gang affiliated.” I’m not allowed to wear anything with the United Farm Workers symbol even though it’s part of my culture? Even the P.E. teachers would profile me. I wore a Sharks jacket one time and they said it was ‘gang affiliated.’ I ended up transferring to Foothill High School because I was always in the office and it started making me feel uncomfortable.

At Foothill High School, where I go now, I only had one incident with the vice principal. I was in art class and I asked my teacher for permission to draw the Sharks hockey team logo and he said that was fine. Later that day I went to the office cause I wasn’t feeling good so I sat in the office to do my work and the vice principal came up to me and asked me what I was doing in the office. I told him I wasn’t feeling well but when he saw my art piece he automatically pointed my art piece out and said it was “gang affiliated” and that I wasn’t allowed to do it. 

There is only one officer at this school and they just observe us. I feel uncomfortable like we’re being watched all the time. I live less than 10 minutes from Foothill and there’s hella cops by my neighborhood. To see them constantly in my neighborhood AND at my school, it feels like I’m always being watched. The administrators and teachers say the SROs are there to keep us safe, but I feel the opposite.

I would like to see more classes about Chicano history. Instead of criminalizing our culture, we should be learning about it and be proud of our history.

Noah, John Muir Middle School - C/O 2025

I started organizing at De-Bug in 2017 when I was eleven years old, after my cousin Jacob Dominguez was killed by SJPD. My brothers, cousins, we all looked up to him a lot - he would make sure we were all good. He wanted the best for us. Policing, profiling of our people is important to me not just in school, but in my neighborhood and community. 

At John Muir there are two officers. One wears regular clothes and the other wears their uniform. They create ‘good kids’ and ‘bad kids.’ It makes us feel like we have to act and talk a certain way, like we have to use our ‘white voice’ so we don’t get in trouble. That’s wrong - we shouldn't have to change how we are so that the cops don’t mess with us. The cops think the ‘bad kids’ know something about every incident that happens. They make students uncomfortable and distract us from our work. There’s always Mexican and Black kids in the office, not a lot of White kids get in trouble. They see us as “ghetto.” They put labels on us at an early age.

I’ll be leaving John Muir next year after 8th grade - I want kids that come after to me to feel safer at school. Instead of having cops on campus, let the administration be there instead to deescalate things. We need programs to help kids get to a good place. A lot of us are musicians, some kids like to tag, help develop our skills as artists - why aren’t they helping us expand our imagination? Rappers, taggers - we’re seen as criminals. We’re actually artists trying to express ourselves. That’s what I do with my art - when I write it takes my mind off stuff. I want to use it to help out. Schools should do the same.

Citlaly, August Boeger Middle School - C/O 2025

The police presence at August Boeger made me and my friends feel nervous. Instead of being protected, it just feels like anyone can get in trouble for the smallest things. Cops are on and off campus - just waiting - and administrators there would always monitor what we wear. Students have to be careful with what you do and what you say. Students get in trouble for the smallest things. If you have the smallest amount of “red” on you they make you call your parents to bring different clothes.

Last year I saw a girl in the office with a police officer for having something in her backpack. She got expelled - I didn’t know her. The administrators have a list of kids who get in trouble and they keep more of an eye on them - they monitor them more. It creates an environment of ‘good kids vs. bad kids.’ 

For me, instead of police - students should be sent to counselors or therapists to help them get the help they need and reflect on what they did. That would help students more. It could help calm students down and help with what is going on in their lives.

Nataly, Clyde L. Fischer Middle School - C/O 2024

SROs on campus are not good for the school, they create an environment where we feel like we are being watched. Some students develop a bad reputation and they are always being targeted by the SROs and administration. 

If you get in trouble during class and you don’t listen to a teacher's multiple  warnings they’ll call the police officer that patrols our school to class. When I was in 7th grade a police officer came to one of my classes and searched a kids backpack in front of the whole class. The kid wasn’t doing what the police officer said and didn't want his backpack searched. The police told him in front of the whole class that if he kept acting like that - he would go to juvie and added, you’re hanging out with the wrong people and making the wrong choices. 

I think schools should look for different forms of discipline like counseling, and having counselors talk to students one on one. Students would feel more free like they don’t have to act a certain way when there’s police around. I am not personally afraid of the police at my school, but I know it makes a lot other kids uncomfortable. I want students to be free. 

School is supposed to be for learning where kids should feel safe and not get labeled.

Freddy & Sammy (Brothers), John Muir Middle School - C/O 2025

We have early experiences with cops - when we were young, about six or seven. Now we’re thirteen and still have to encounter them. We live 10 minutes away from John Muir and there’s cops in our neighborhood just posted up at the park.

The officers at John Muir try to intimidate us. They yell at us - they don’t see us as students: they see us as criminals, they don’t care about us. We have to act and talk a certain way if we don’t want to get in trouble. When we play basketball with our friends, the cops watch us - why? We don’t want cops at our school. The teachers also help the cops by talking with them. The teachers have the power to get students in a lot of trouble when they involve the cops.

We need to replace cops with restorative justice and have more counselors. They should talk to us about what is happening not just get us in trouble.

We don’t want our younger family to go through this. We should have a less strict dress code, music and sports in school. We want to learn about our Chicano and Filipino history - why don’t they have this at our school already?

Jack, Buchser Middle School - C/O 2024

I grew up going to different schools in Mountain View and Santa Clara for elementary and middle school. I have a lot of family and friends who live in San Jose and go to schools there - so to hear that there are so many cops on campus is really worrisome. I don’t want them to get in trouble and get caught up in the school to prison pipeline.

Me and my family started organizing with De-Bug after my cousin Jacob Dominguez was killed by cops in San Jose in 2017. He would always tell us: don’t become like him. He was the oldest cousin, so he didn’t have anyone to look up to so he made sure to be an example to us. I was 12 when he was killed. I was younger and I’m glad he got to tell us his story. I wasn’t as focused then. Now that I’m 14, I feel more focused and want to be a good example for my family - and Jacob’s children who were left behind.

There’s a lot of talent out there in our communities. It’s not easy to talk about what goes on in our communities though. There should be classes that help us express ourselves. Criminal justice - organizing - incorporate this as well. Schools don’t think it’s worth it. Counseling should be included as well. There’s a wellness office at my school but kids don’t like to speak out, they might be bullied. There should be mandatory counseling to prevent things from happening, not to address things after they happen.

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