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Students voice concerns of SCS vote to keep sheriff's deputies in schools

“I learned that the response to violence was violence,” said Central High School senior Makhia Smith.

MEMPHIS, Tennessee — After months of debate, Shelby County Schools is renewing its $50,000 contract with the Shelby County Sheriff's Office to keep school resource officers in the hallways. But students are pushing back against the decision, saying it’s doing little to help. 

“I learned that the response to violence was violence,” said Central High School senior Makhia Smith.

Tuesday night, Smith recounted a school resource officer's response after a fight that happened two years ago, saying the officer's actions shook her.

“I heard a grueling scream ring out, as if someone were dying,” said Smith. “Later I would learn that a male officer had slammed a girl into the ground. She had braces and they shattered.”

Paul Garner with the organization Stand With Children said the agreement perpetuates the school-to-prison pipeline. He said he disagrees with what the agreement allows.

“Officers who have the ability to question students without parental consent,” Garner said. “To make arrests without a parent being notified.”

In Tuesday evening’s meeting SCS Superintendent Dr. Joris Ray said, “Per board policy, parents and guardians are to be contacted prior to questioning a student.”

The superintendent said if there’s any cases where that is not happening, parents should alert SCS.

“We listened to the board, we listened to our constituents and most of all we listened to our students,” said Ray.  

“You heard last night that students were listened to in this process, but that doesn’t mean that they were heard,” explained Garner. “We’re committed to continuing to work with the board to break the school-to-prison pipeline, I just don’t think that’s what we saw last night.”

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