The Portland Board of Education voted early Wednesday morning to remove school resource officers from Portland and Deering high schools.

The decision came after a 7-hour meeting during which Superintendent Xavier Botana came out in support of ending the district’s contract for school resource officers, stating his position for the first time.

The Portland Board of Public Education held the special meeting to consider a resolution that would discontinue a memorandum of understanding the district has with the Portland Police Department. That agreement allows two police officers to work as resource officers in the district, one at Deering High School and the other Portland High School. The city’s other high school, Casco Bay, doesn’t have a resource officer.

The move to discontinue the agreement with Portland police comes amid a national examination of racial justice and a reassessment about the need for having police in schools. Funding for police departments around the country is being scrutinized in the wake of George Floyd’s killing by a police officer in Minneapolis who knelt on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes.

Floyd’s death sparked Black Lives Matter protests across the nation, including several in Portland that drew thousands of people.

Just after 1 a.m., the board voted 7-2 to discontinue the memorandum of understanding with the police department. Board members Sarah Thompson and Mark Balfantz voted against removing school resource officers from the schools.


Botana, who had not weighed in on the issue until Tuesday night’s meeting, said that some teachers and staff have become overly reliant on calling for police to handle disciplinary matters that often don’t rise to the level of a crime.

“In this moment of reckoning, are we more than just an institution, are we living our commitment to equity?” Botana asked.

A competing proposal by Thompson called for the district to extend its agreement with Portland police through July 2021. Thompson said that would give the district more time to evaluate the effectiveness of the program and to support a broader community conversation about the pros and cons of resource officers. The board voted 6-2 against that proposal.

A majority of the people who spoke Tuesday night appeared to be in favor of removing the officers from the schools. The board took public comment until just before 1 a.m.

In June, opponents of having resource officers in the two high schools presented a petition signed by more than 800 parents, students, teachers and community members to the board. The petition called on the district to terminate its relationship with the Portland Police Department and remove the two officers assigned to Portland and Deering high schools.

Thompson said a petition in support of her resolution had gathered more than 1,000 signatures.


Dozens of people spoke during Tuesday’s hearing, which lasted past midnight. Community members, teachers, students and former students offered their opinions.

Angelia Bou, a Deering graduate, urged the board to immediately end the district’s contract with Portland police. Bou said the funds could be more wisely spent on social workers and mental health counselors.

“We don’t need to further police our students,” Bou said. “Removing the school resource officers removes the link between our schools and the prison pipeline.”

Lex Jackson criticized Thompson’s proposal, which Jackson said flies in the face of those students and teachers who are calling for removal of armed police officers from Portland schools.

“Waiting (for another year) appeals to the idea that maybe we don’t have a problem here,” said Jackson, who works in the Portland public school system.

Ashleigh Daniels will be a junior at Portland High this fall. Daniels said she supports Thompson’s measure to extend the school resource officer contract for another year.

“Everyone is making this into a war instead of a battle,” Daniels said. “Who are we going to call if we are in danger. Who is going to protect us when we can’t protect ourselves?”

Thompson’s resolution was criticized by Portland High graduate Elizabeth Donato.

“You are not listening to the voices of the people, who are being negatively impacted by school resources and the police,” Donato said.

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