This week, the Portland Public Schools board voted to pay $1 million a year for nine police officers in public schools.
The decision to fund the officers comes after a year of mass shootings in schools around the nation. School resource officers have been in Portland public schools for the past two decades, but previously cost the district nothing. The new funding package passed despite concerns that school resource officers unduly target students of color, and requests to delay a vote until more feedback was received, The Oregonian reported.
The proposed agreement will now go before Portland City Council, and former Portland activist Gregory McKelvey is urging commissioners to reject it.
McKelvey, who moved to Atlanta in July, was a prominent organizer with groups such as Portland's Resistance and Don't Shoot PDX.
On Wednesday, Dec. 12, McKelvey took to Twitter to share about his experiences with a school resource officer in Beaverton public schools in the mid-2000, when McKelvey was a high schooler.
Perhaps the most harrowing account, which has now gone viral, describes the officer and eight other riot cops allegedly kicking down McKelvey's door and holding him and his grandmother at gunpoint over a stolen calculator.
"He got a warrant to investigate me for a stolen calculator," McKelvey writes, "that I didn't steal. He kicked down my door after school one day with eight other cops in riot gear with guns drawn on my Grandma."
McKelvey alleges he and his grandmother were held at gunpoint as officers trashed his room and confiscated belongings. He says he spent the next few years "always terrified" at school.
His story has now been shared over 37,000 times, prompting many others to weigh in.
"I didn't expect to share that story," McKelvey tells WW, "It was just because of the vote that happened with the school board [that I did]."
McKelvey adds that "putting more guns into a school just continues to normalize guns in our culture."
"The problem is, for many people, that cop is not a good guy," McKelvey says. "I think that a lot of white people and white parents that hear these stories think that it's just so outlandish and outrageous that it couldn't be possible because it doesn't happen to their kids. But it happens to so many kids that the stories are just going to continue to flood in."
McKelvey hopes that sharing about his experiences with his school resource officer will shed light on how police presence affects students of color.
"The focus on the calculator I know seems outrageous," McKelvey says, "but I would prefer the focus to be on years long intimidation of the threat of arrest [students of color experience] when white kids don't have to deal with that. They get detention."
At the Dec. 12 school board meeting, The Portland Tribune reported, proponents of the agreement to fund resource officers at Portland schools say they want specialized personnel on grounds to protect students during emergencies.
"How would I feel as a parent if my students were in a situation where they had been a perpetrator or a victim of criminal activity and who would I want to be talking to them?" Brim-Edwards said at the meeting. "I would much prefer to have a school resource officer as part of that equation, that has special training and has a commitment to trauma-informed practices and restorative justice, rather than just to have a call go out to 911."
Correction: An earlier version of this article stated PPS approved funding for new officers. The vote approved a new financial contract with existing officers.