African Americans top the list of students arrested at SF schools but only make up 8 percent of student body 

More black schoolchildren were arrested last fall than any other ethnicity in San Francisco’s public schools — and by a long shot — according to the report from the school district.

“Something is rotten with that picture,” the Rev. Amos Brown, the president of San Francisco’s NAACP chapter, told the Police Commission Wednesday night. “That stinks,” he said, pointing to the statistics, which he brought to the commission.

Of the 37 students arrested from September to December, 27 of them were black. Seven were Latino, three were white and one was Asian. Twenty of the arrests occurred at middle schools. Thirty-two of the students arrested were male.

Blacks make up 8 percent of the school district’s student. Asian students, at 38 percent, make up the largest segment, followed Latinos at 26 percent and whites at 13 percent, according to statistics from the 2013-14 school year.

The San Francisco Unified School District could not provide data were exactly the arrests were made.

The highest number of arrests were for criminal threats, followed by battery and then possession of weapons.

In contrast to the students, district staff is 37 percent white, and the administration is 43 percent white.

While arrest numbers are down when compared to recent years, the concentration of black student arrests does not sit well with some on the school board.

“This is deeply concerning to us as a school district and has been a top priority in our relationship with the San Francisco Police Department,” said Matt Haney, the Board of Education’s vice president.

Haney hopes a newly inked memorandum of understanding with police and increased training of school staff will reduce instances of arrest overall, as well as among black students. Arrests should be the last resort, he said, adding that the schools should deal with most issues internally so as not to get students caught up in the criminal justice system.

The MOU with police aims to increase communication among students, families, school officials and police, and calls for reports on arrests to be shared.

The policy spells out the protocol about when a school involves the authorities or if a student is arrested on campus. Parents are to be called if a student is being questioned by police on campus.

Still, Haney said he does not know if offenses are being dealt with differently depending on the school site or ethnicity of the student.

“We have seen with discipline that often black students are punished more harshly for the same offense,” he said.

School board member Shamann Walton agreed.

“It’s definitely something we’re trying to address,” he said.

About The Author

Jonah Owen Lamb

Jonah Owen Lamb

Born and raised on a houseboat in Sausalito, Lamb has written for newspapers in New York City, Utah and the San Joaquin Valley. He was most recently an editor at the San Luis Obispo Tribune for nearly three years. He has written for The S.F. Examiner since 2013 and covers criminal justice and planning.
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