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Community members march for police-free schools

Current and past students listen to speeches at the Marion County Juvenile Detention Center. Photo by Sonia Boeger.

On October 2, from 4:00 to 7:30 p.m. approximately 250 community members, including Chemeketa students, participated in the Police Free Schools March. The event was organized by an activist Latinx youth group called Latinos Unidos Siempre. The march began at the Salem Keizer School District office in downtown Salem and delivered a letter to the Salem-Keizer School Board. 

Many Chemeketa students come from the Salem-Keizer school district. 

The marchers wrote messages in chalk on the sidewalk outside the office, such as “SROs out of schools,” “Black Lives Matter,” and “Our students matter.” The march ended at the Marion County Juvenile Detention Center, to symbolize what is referred to as the school to prison pipeline. 

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, the school to prison pipeline is “a disturbing national trend wherein children are funneled out of public schools and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems.”

The march attendees were critical of the Salem-Keizer school district’s actions on a number of issues, but primarily focused on the issue of School Resource Officers in schools. Many of the attendees said they believe that funding currently spent on SROs would be better spent on counselors, psychiatrists, more culturally responsive classes, and staff of color.

Community members write phrases on windows at the Salem Keizer School District office.
Photo by Sonia Boeger.

Luis, an activist with LUS, helped organize this event because he believes that the Salem-Keizer school district is reinforcing the school to prison pipeline. 

“When you have an environment such as school, that’s… supposed to support education and instead you’re met with a really authoritarian school district and the students fall into disciplinary actions, that sometimes lead to legal actions,” Luis said. “They get a record on them, and then from there recidivism occurs and they are affected for their whole lives.”

Black Joy Oregon organizer Julianne Jackson speaks about her experience with the Salem-Keizer school district and Juvenile Detention Center. Photo by Sonia Boeger.

When the marchers arrived at the Marion County Juvenile Detention Center, people were invited to speak about their experiences. Julianne Jackson, an organizer and activist with Black Joy Oregon spoke about her experiences growing up in the Salem-Keizer school district and Juvenile Detention Center.

“Nobody stopped to say Julianne, are you homeless, what do you need? And I was. No one said Julianne, and I’ll just keep it 100, are you being sexually assaulted and do you need somewhere to go? Are you safe?” Jackson said. “No one asked me those questions. No one asked me those questions until I was an adult and the damage was done.”

Another former Salem-Keizer student and LUS member, who goes by the initials D.H., believes that extensive meetings with school-counselors should be available to students.

“I went to … high school [in the Salem Keizer School District] and graduated in 2018… I didn’t see my counselor until my Senior year and I don’t think that’s how it should have been,” D.H. said. “I think I should have seen her every single year and probably once every month.”

Members of LUS, including Luis and D.H., have sat in on Salem-Keizer School Board meetings and disagree with many of the board’s decisions regarding ways to support Black, Indigenous, and People of Color students. The board does not currently plan to remove SROs from schools. LUS members and other participants said they are committed to continuing their efforts until the school district removes SROs and increases funding on resources needed by BIPOC students.

The full names of some sources interviewed in this story have been redacted to protect them from potential legal and social repercussions.

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