Since our inception, LVSU has heard from community members about the prevalence of police violence in their communities. We broadly stand with them to promote police accountability across the Lehigh Valley and defunding the police. When we say “Defund The Police,” we mean that we are actively working toward the 8 to Abolition and highlighting the need for bloated police budgets to be reduced. That money would then be put forward to actual community building efforts.
In May of 2020, an estimated 2,000 people took the streets with us in Bethlehem to demand change. As a result, activism in the Valley swelled and we formed research teams, advocacy groups to speak to elected officials, and built relationships with as many people as we could to participate in the process of police accountability.
Since that time, there have been two high-profile cases of police brutality in the Valley. The first, mere weeks after the video of George Floyd surfaced, a man was detained outside a hospital by an officer who pressed a knee into his head. That officer was never suspended and is still on duty in Allentown. In December of 2020, a 19 year old Asian man named Christian Hall was shot on an overpass by a Pa State Trooper. The Monroe County DA ruled it “suicide by cop” and declined to investigate further. There is still so much to do.
During this work around police accountability, we heard a lot of stories from the students of the Allentown School District. The ASD employs a School Resource Officer program with the Allentown Police Department that stations 8 officers in the schools across the district. There are vastly more officers in the majority BIPOC district than in neighboring majority white districts in the suburbs. National data shows that removing police from our schools is one of the most straightforward ways to cut down on the school to prison pipeline.
There are many factors besides APD that contribute to the school to prison pipeline, including counselors that are overworked due to their immense caseloads, security officers (separate from the SROs) that have acted inappropriately and violently towards students, and the fact that even though there is a “School Resource Officer,” students do not feel like they have the mental and emotional resources to succeed in school.
Due to these stories being brought to light, LVSU is committed to a long term goal to decarcerate the Allentown School District as an example to other districts in the area. Our three main goals are to implore the Allentown School Board to:
- Audit all school security and investigate misconduct
- Find solutions to implement more counselors in ASD schools
- Break the contract with Allentown Police Department that places officers in schools
You can join us by: