Silent Voices Are Finally Heard

Deputies Remained on Campus Because Marginalized Students Were Unable to Speak

Credit: Paul Wellman (file)

Cops Off Campus SB is not just an Instagram Page. We are not just an organization publishing community testimonies, sending emails, and making public comments. Before all, we are students. As students witnessing the destructive influence of police presence on our campuses daily, it is our responsibility to take action. And that’s exactly what we’re doing.

On October 12, 2021, after months of work, our campaign to remove the Student Resource Deputy from San Marcos was successful when the S.B. Unified Board of Education unanimously voted against renewing the contract for the current school year. Despite the significant backlash we have received following the school board’s decision, we will continue to emphasize equity and safety in our schools and incorporate all voices in our movement to create a more unified and inclusive education system.

Throughout the process of removing the deputy, we aimed to amplify and represent all student voices, including those who are not part of our coalition. And, let’s face it, representation is a huge issue in our district. While our district prides itself on being “student centered,” we are constantly reminded of which student voices are the ones being centered: predominantly the privileged voices, the white, upper class, full abled, cishet student voices. [“Cishet” is a blend of “cisgender” and “heterosexual.”]

This representation issue in our education system is the reason why Student Resource Deputies were put on campus in the first place and why they remained there for so long: Marginalized students were unable to speak up because of limitations such as accessibility, physical and emotional safety, and generational trauma. Through collecting and publishing testimonies, we have been able to raise those student voices that have been muted for so long and give them an outlet to express their concerns. However, there are still members of our community who fail to understand our coalition, who we represent, and what we are advocating for.

The school board’s decision to reimagine school safety in our district does not compromise the safety of any of our students. Policing on campus has never been proven to increase school safety — even for those who do feel safer with their presence on campus — and yet their detrimental impact on marginalized groups has continually been identified in research time and again. Instead of focusing on undoing the decision that has already been made, we should focus our energy in a more productive direction.

We are advocating for counselors and for crisis intervention specialists, not for the criminalization of our students. Most importantly, we believe in the power of community. Our activism is not only in the interest of a select number of students in our district. In fact, reimagining school safety as a result of community healing rather than as a contributing factor to community healing is an ideal that benefits all S.B. Unified students.

Our battle to remove cops from our school campuses is not just a victory for the Youth Coalition. It is a victory for all of the organizations and activists before us, from Ethnic Studies Now to Black Student Youth of Santa Barbara, who fought tirelessly to create a safer community for all students. It is a victory for the students who have been subject to the institutional oppression and discrimination exerted by the system of education. Above all, our victory is a victory for the thousands of students that will pass through our Santa Barbara Unified schools in the many years to come.

It is time for us as students to reclaim the system we are so intimately involved in and be at the forefront of every decision made by the district. It is also time for our community to listen to and uplift marginalized student voices.

And our campaign is not over yet. We will keep collecting testimonies, we will keep making public comments, and we will continue to be engaged in our own education. We must recognize that police are not the answer. Only then will we be able to design a solution to protect our schools that will promote unity and inclusion in our community.

Noelle Cabrera and Kavya Suresh are members of Cops Off Campus SB.

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