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Policing Cops in Schools
When Oakland public school classes begin again in the Fall, the district will have new policies limiting police activity. Youth Radio's Joi Smith comments on the change.

By Joi Smith

I dialed my mom a thousand times, but no one answered. I was getting angrier by the second; the situation just didn’t feel right. A school security guard had just removed me from my classroom and taken me to the office.

The guard and a school counselor asked if I had any sharp objects on me. Then they said they were going to have to search my bag. But I looked back at them confidently and said, “No one will be checking my bag without my mom here."

My mom always told my sister and me to never let anyone search or question us without her knowing or being there. She wants to make sure we don’t put ourselves in any kind of danger, or uncomfortable situation.

When school security realized that I wasn’t going to just hand over my rights, they called the school police officer to make sure the search was enforced. I was getting angry -- starting to boil over.

The whole thing was a case of mistaken identity, and I didn’t have anything in my bag that violated school policy. But that’s not the point. I felt violated. Like the school had more control over me and my personal belongings than I did.

The Oakland Unified School District recently passed a new policy saying school police officers must tell students that they have the right for a parent to be present before and during an interrogation.

My mom is my personal homeland security. She makes me feel safe wherever I am. I would have felt a lot better knowing she was contacted before I was pulled out of class for an incident that didn’t even involve me.

This spring, I transferred out of my high school because of what happened. How was I supposed to do school work when it felt like no one on campus would defend me? I hope the new policy means that no kid ever feels that uncomfortable or unprotected on school grounds again.

With a Perspective, I’m Joi Smith.

Joi Smith will be a senior this Fall. She now does independent studies in Oakland. Her commentary was produced by Youth Radio.

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