Fremont police headed back to campuses despite some pushback

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FREMONT — Following months of debate over police presence at high schools, officers will be back on campuses when classes begin in mid-August.

At its July 21 meeting, the Fremont Unified School District board voted 4-1 to approve an agreement with the city’s police department that lays out rules and expectations about how officers must interact with students.

At the meeting, some students, alumni and teachers criticized the agreement, saying it largely ignores the recommendations of a task force that evaluated the two-decade-old School Resource Officer program last summer.

They said the agreement and an accompanying handbook are too vague about matters such as discipline, reprimand or admonishment of students, police access to private student records, the rights of parents, and whether the board can remove an officer from schools.

In voting against the agreement, board Vice President Dianne Jones said the district and police department didn’t follow federal guidelines that suggest community members, educators and civil rights and juvenile justice experts should be involved in forming such agreements.

“We’ve known for a long time that the process of creating and reviewing the (agreement) should have engaged with more stakeholders and more of these groups; we didn’t do it,” Jones said.

Board President Larry Sweeney, and board members Desrie Campbell, Vivek Prasad and Yajing Zhang voted for the agreement.

“Are these documents perfect? No. But are these documents much, much better than where we used to be? Yes,” Prasad said. The handbook says data from the program will be reviewed by the board twice a year, something that was not done in past years.

Prasad said the board should move ahead and “monitor (the program) very actively and then tweak the program as we go forward.”

A board-appointed task force last year recommended dissolving the agreement, citing concerns such as disproportionately high arrests of Black and Latinx students, a lack of clear data about how officers interacted with students and a lack of measurable goals.

The task force also said the board should create an “inclusive, community‐driven process” to work up a new safety plan for schools.

In fact, the school board tried to put an end to the program in November with a 3-2 vote. But in January, a board with new members voted to reverse that decision, and in May it fully reinstated the program for the coming school year, allocating more than $900,000 to pay for it.

“It’s gravely concerning to me as a recent graduate that we are reinstating a permanent police presence without proper and thorough reforms that us community stakeholders have so tirelessly advocated for over the last year,” Alvin Lee told the board.

Lucy Shen, a graduate of Fremont schools who unsuccessfully ran for a school board seat last year, said the documents’ wording is too vague.

“It currently says, for example, that SROs won’t be involved in matters of school discipline, but will still be involved in admonishments and reprimands. So I think this is pretty obviously a fairly fuzzy line, so please ensure that the language is a little more clear than that,” she said.

Justin Valencia,, a Horner Middle School teacher, spoke against the agreement’s language that says officers can be granted access to any student records so long as they have a “legitimate educational interest,” which it doesn’t define.

“If there’s no set definition, then I can easily see this being used as a tool that can be used to profile students,” Valencia said.

Superintendent CJ Cammack said records needed by officers are often a student’s name, address and birth date, which might be used for an “issue related to the child’s safety, it might be related to a welfare check, it might be related to an abuse issue.”

The handbook also says the school district will call a parent or guardian and give them “a reasonable opportunity to be present for any police interrogation,” though some at the meeting, including Tushar Damia, a student board member, said that section should be reworded to ensure police can’t question students without parental consent, except in an emergency.

Zhang disagreed.

“I actually object to parents’ presence. Because if you seek parents’ approval, if the parents say no, I don’t want a police officer, an SRO, to talk to my kids, then what?,” Zhang said.

The agreement and handbook were drafted primarily by Cammack, Greg Bailey, the director of student support services, Fremont police Capt. Sean Washington and Lt. Eric Tang, according to school and city officials.

In an email, city spokesperson Geneva Bosques said Washington also sought input from the police chief’s community advisory group. A school district spokesperson, Brian Killgore, said input from other district staff, as well as feedback from the public and the board during past meetings, also were factored in.

Boardmember Desrie Campbell said she worried about over-regulating police and district staff with the documents.

“The reality is we have students in our schools who come possessing illegal weapons, knives, pellet guns, or things that look like guns. They have been in possession of illegal substances, whether they’re using it or selling it. There have been fights that have broken out, there have been thefts,” she said.

“I think if we make it too tight, we’ll create an environment where we can’t be responsive because we have too many rules and regulations that’s keeping us from protecting the kids who are not doing bad things, from the kids that are doing bad things,” she said. “How do we draw that balance?”

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