In response to the discovery of a school resource officer (SRO) incident with a student at South Gwinnett High School, Gwinnett SToPP members and partners rallied at the GCPS Instructional Support Center before the scheduled school board meeting on Thursday, April 20th. The rally coincided with the national Dignity in Schools Campaign annual membership meeting taking place in Atlanta. As a result, two busloads of protesters joined forces to express their concern.
The incident took place in early February but was not brought to the attention of Gwinnett SToPP until April. According to witnesses at the scene several students had been fighting but fellow students had de-escalated the situation before the SRO arrived. When the SRO arrived, he slammed one student against the wall, then on the ground. The student was bloodied, lost consciousness, and arrested despite there being no imminent threat to the student body.
According to some of the students, this behavior is typical of this officer. Gwinnett SToPP and their Dignity in Schools Campaign partners are calling for the removal of SROs, especially those who treat children like criminals. “We want counselors, not cops,” said Tillman.
The rally and press conference was covered by Fox5 Atlanta, CBS Atlanta, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Gwinnett Daily Post. Several speakers contributed to the press conference including Reverend Frederick Phillips, U Hope CDC, Inc.; Devon Jefferson, GCPS parent; Tavon Bridges, Youth Organizing Institute/DSC Member; J. Allen from Interfaith Children’s Movement, Dana Smith, a professional cultural proficiency consultant, in addition to Ms. Tillman.
The assembled crowd then joined the school board meeting and several people offered comments to the board.
The board response supported the officer’s actions and the SRO acted within GCPS guidelines. Dr. McClure added that Gwinnett SToPP is despicable for raising the issue.
Gwinnett SToPP gratefully accepts the support of the local community and asks for your participation as we continue this work. To find out about the next action, join our group on Facebook.