Community members pack Woodland Hills School Board meeting to protest rehiring Rankin, Churchill resource officers

By August 16, 2018 August 17th, 2018 One Comment

Woodland Hills Board Delays Vote until Aug. 26

Protesters packed the Aug. 15 meeting of the Woodland Hills School board to protest the rehiring of school resource officers from the police departments of Churchill and Rankin. (Current Photo by Jake Mysliwczyk)

Community members in the Woodland Hills School District turned out en masse to the Aug. 16 school board meeting to protest the rehiring of police officers from the boroughs of Rankin and Churchill to serve as the district’s resource officers.

But before the meeting even got started, Board President, Jamie L. Glasser told the packed room that the board met in an executive session prior to the meeting to discuss personnel, legal and security matters. She announced that the board would not vote on finalized contracts with Rankin and Churchill Police Departments until next Thursday at 5pm.

But that didn’t stop those in attendance from voicing their concerns during the public comment portion of the meeting. Woodland Hills School has had a tumultuous year.  Numerous Woodland Hills students have been killed in recent years, most recently 17-year-old Antwon Rose II, who was fatally shot by an East Pittsburgh police officer. Rose was in a vehicle stopped by police when he ran from the car, unarmed and was shot in the back. In June, Woodland Hills Alum and candidate for a seat in the state legislature Summer Lee said Rose, “saw his friends getting beat up by these cops and how the justice system works against their abusers. Would that not inform your interaction with police officers?”

On June 20th community members and parents protested incidents involving the district’s  resource officers brutalizing students of color. A school police officer named Stephen Shaulis came up again  during the public comment period. Since 2015 Shaulis has been documented using excessive force on Woodland Hill students at least three times. In one incident, he knocked out the tooth of a 14 year old student. Students also rallied in April of last year calling for Shaulis’ firing. There is currently a civil lawsuit against the district and the officers citing five incidents of officers stepping over the line with students. Shaulis no longer works in the district.

Darnika Reed, a parent and member of the Alliance for Police Accountability, expressed concern for her son and other black boys at Woodland Hills. She asked the board to consider keeping a list of Woodla

Woodland Hills Superintendent James P. Harris Jr. (Current Photo by Jake Mysliwczyk)

nd Hills teachers who repeatedly call police officers on children. She called for officers to be fired for misconduct and for the schools administration and staff to deal with student behavior.

“The district is funneling children into the criminal justice system when it’s supposed to be keeping them safe,” Reed continued, “They are also charging children with disorderly conduct.”

Jerrie Young-Lundy, grandmother of two, took both of her grandsons out of Woodland Hills and moved them to West Mifflin. She said after an incident with Shaulis, her son left school that day with six criminal charges. She went to court repeatedly with her grandson and got the charges dropped. He was charged with disorderly conduct and had to do community service.

“If my grandson didn’t have someone such as I, to have his back and did what I did, what would have happened? He would have a record,” Young-Lundy said.

Young-Lundy’s grandson was a junior in high school when charged.

She told the Pittsburgh Current that her oldest grandson graduated with a 3.75 GPA now that he’s out of the district. When he was at Woodland Hills his GPA was 1.9.

After the meeting, James P. Harris Jr. was sworn in as the district’s new superintendent, said, “I want to get it back to being a normal school. Everyone who came here talked about police, not about academics, not about the football team, not about the band. We want to get back to that.”

While Harris thinks armed resource officers are necessary at school — especially if there is an armed intruder, he doesn’t want to see students charged as criminals.

“We need to have that, Harris said. “Not worrying about being Tased in the hallway, or being taken on a misdemeanor charge because you said a dirty word. That’s crazy. We need to get back to letting kids be kids.”

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