Chairwoman Sauda Baraka and the Bridgeport Board of Education decided last night to continue (for now) the memorandum of understanding with the Police Department after receiving an overwhelming response from an outraged public. The board referred the decision back to committee for more discussion.
Over 190 parents, security guards, teachers and administrators packed into the Aquaculture School on Monday night to urge the board not to end its 18-month “memorandum of agreement” with the Bridgeport Police Department.
Under this agreement, school security and police officers are both under the command of the Bridgeport Police Department. The police department provides school security and police officers with additional training, equipment and backup. Since the merger, Bridgeport schools have seen a dramatic decrease in school arrests, more security resources and shorter response times, according to a letter sent to the board from Bridgeport Police Chief Joseph Gaudett.
Despite Chairwoman Baraka’s attempt to use union grievances as an excuse to push through a motion to end the school security merger, the union itself did not agree. Dwayne Harrison, the president of the union which represents the eight special police officers and the 75 school security officers paid by the district, said he believes that unity between the departments is important for the safety of Bridgeport school children.
It wasn’t just the unions, though. Dozens of security and police officers came out in support of the merger.
Why, then, did Baraka and other members of the board push this issue through? Was it political? Would the current board be so callous as to risk the safety of our students just to undo the good work of their predecessors?
Let’s hope that kicking the issue back to committee means a quick end to the terrible idea of putting security in the board’s hands. Bridgeport’s schools and students cannot handle the increased cost and increased risk.
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