Youth advocates amplify 'defund SRO' message to Durham School leaders

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- They've held forums, marched, sent letters and Thursday, the Durham Youth Climate Justice Initiative held a news conference to demand action from Durham Public Schools.

"It doesn't make people feel safe when they're policed in a learning environment," Aissa Dearing said.

Their lament started with a letter sent weeks ago to school leaders. Shortly after, DPS issued a statement promising to hear the students' spending proposal. Meanwhile, the advocacy group said it has received silence.

"We are concerned about the lack of response that DPS and BOE had about our removal for SROs from schools," Dearing said.

Durham Youth Climate Justice Initiative wants DPS to use the money budgeted for school resource officers to go to more nurses, therapists and guidance counselors; emphasizing trauma as a contributor for things as simple as behavior problems to those most extreme such as school shootings.

"School shooters are typically students from that school who typically have issues with mental health bullying or whatever the case might be. But if we had more mental health counselors on sight to aid that student before this traumatic event occurs, we can prevent that from happening to any of us," Dearing said.

The group's message wasn't just about policing. Chris Fowler shared his experience, encouraged LGBTQ inclusion and investment in all students.

"Our students are our future, it's very desperate to me that I see people who are younger than me, grow up to me be like me, people who may be outcast in our communities. Make a difference in our future," Fowler said.

The Durham School board meets Thursday at 6:30. The students' proposal is not on the agenda but could possibly come up during public comment. From here, the group is planning a summit to map out more specific proposals for Durham Schools.
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