OAKLAND (KPIX) — The Oakland school board is meeting Wednesday night to discuss whether to reverse a decision made last week to eliminate a popular mentoring program for young Black men.
The elimination of the program left the community outraged by the action..READ MORE: Bay Area Remembers 1941 Attack On Pearl Harbor That Changed America Forever
The move was part of the board’s so-called “George Floyd Resolution.” Meant to strike a blow for social justice, the Oakland Unified School District board voted to remove all Oakland police officers from their school campuses.
But they also cancelled the OK Program, a 12-year old mentoring program involving police officers operated by Oakland’s Acts Full Gospel Church, a pillar of the African-American community.
“This program involves police officers, mot to incarcerate the boys, but to keep them from being incarcerated,” said a frustrated Bishop Bob Jackson, the Pastor at the church. “It is the only preventive police program and it’s run by the community, not the police department.”
The program pairs a volunteer police officer with middle and high school students in three areas of the city. Or at least it did, until the board cancelled it with its vote last week.
OK’s volunteer Executive Director, OPD Sgt. Robert Smith, has been mentoring young Black men and boys for seven years. But this week got a letter saying he is not welcome on any campus in the district.READ MORE: 'Prolific' San Francisco Retail Theft Suspect Back In Jail After New Arrest
“Yeah, I think the district voted blindly just because they heard the word ‘police,'” he said. “And because they heard the word ‘police,’ with everything that’s going on in the world today with police, a lot of the good stuff is hidden and not really talked about.”
The vote set off a firestorm of anger in the community, so the issue was put back on this week’s agenda for reconsideration based on what was described as “significant community pushback.”
Board Vice President Sam Davis admitted he didn’t understand what the OK Program was all about when he voted to cancel it.
“I thought it was more of a program around discipline and I didn’t understand it’s more about mentorship,” explained Davis.
The OK Program has been in operation since 2009, with seven chapters across the country. Oakland’s chapter serves 344 young African-American men and boys. Cancelling OK was meant as a show support for the African-American community, but those who voted to do it may soon be in need of support themselves.
At least that’s how Castlemont High School Head Football Coach Edward Washington sees it.MORE NEWS: Scott Peterson Returning To San Mateo County Courtroom Wednesday For Re-Sentencing
“It just goes to show you that they have no connection, no real genuine connection with the community at all. Because this would have never happened,” he said. “It is absolutely ridiculous that we’re having this conversation and I think we need to evaluate who’s on our school board.”