City council eliminates program that puts police into high school

Los Altos High School
Los Altos High School

By the Daily Post staff

Los Altos City Council voted unanimously this morning to eliminate a program that sends a police officers into Los Altos High School after hearing complaints that the cops mistreat minority students, creating an atmosphere of fear.

The council vote came at 1:33 a.m. following a public hearing during which 52 people spoke via the Zoom platform. All but a handful favored eliminating the officers.

Council also agreed to set up a program that will allow the public to submit complaints about police officers to an independent third-party instead of filling out a form at the Police Department, which some people found to be intimidating. Police will also be encouraged to give people they come into contact with a brochure or business card that explains how they can lodge a complaint.

Most of the focus of the hourslong hearing was on the school resource officer, or SRO, program, which has existed for 35 years. Councilwoman Neysa Fligor said that whatever the goals of the SRO program were, they’re not being met today.

During the public hearing, there was some disagreement among speakers about how many students had been mistreated by SRO officers.

“Even if there are just 10 students who are negatively affected, we can’t turn a deaf ear to them,” Fligor said.

The council decided to eliminate the SRO program by the end of the current academic year and form a committee with high school district trustees to discuss an alternate program. Some members of the audience suggested taking the funding for the SRO program and put it into a mental health program for students.

The council vote this morning was based on recommendations of a Citizens Police Task Force council created following the outcry over the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. The task force included co-chairwomen Fligor and Mayor Jan Pepper.

Retired Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge LaDoris Cordell has been providing advice to the effort. Cordell has previously served as the police auditor in San Jose, investigating complaints against officers in that city.

Before the council meeting, 2015 Los Altos High School alumnus Kiyoshi Taylor told the Post he used to be regularly harassed, followed to his car and questioned randomly by police on campus during his time as a student at the school. He said he doesn’t want the police on campus.

“We need better counselors, we need better therapists, we need trained professionals without a badge and a gun — and not a police officer,” Kiyoshi, 23, said, and added that he had incidents both on and off campus with police that led him to support taking them out of schools.

“They constantly pull other black people over, other brown people over, for seemingly no reason and they expect us to trust them,” he said.

Taylor said has been stopped riding or walking his bike by officers who wanted to know why he wasn’t wearing a helmet or to ask where he was going, once even while another white bicyclist passed by them unbothered. But officers never had a real reason to issue him a citation on campus because he was never cited, he said. And he said black and brown students already live with a fear of armed officers because of a history of racism and killings by police throughout the country to this day, which makes them feel unsafe around cops on campus.

The city currently defines campus officers as a “a liaison position between local schools and the police department,” according to Deputy City Manager Jon Maginot’s report on the task force to the council. His report also said campus cops are supposed to serve as a law enforcement officer, a counselor and an educator who is also trained as a certified drug abuse prevention instructor.

And the SRO officer is supposed to prevent cyber bullying and to drive students to a mental health facility instead of juvenile hall.

These officers are also supposed to train school employee on how to respond to a campus threat, such as a school shooter.

Los Altos Police Chief Andy Galea told the council the police department had not received any complaints of problems between students and SRO officers. His comment was in response to Councilwoman Lynette Lee Eng, who asked if they had gotten any complaints. He said “actually I think it’s quite the opposite” and added that his officers receive their fair share of compliments.

But Seth Donnelly, a teacher for more than 20 years at Los Altos High School, told the Post that 800 students, alumni and other residents signed a petition asking the Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School District to remove the officers.

The petition also asks for all incoming freshman to undergo required ethnic studies their first year in high school, that all departments produce reports after each semester detailing their plans to “uproot blatant and subtle forms of racism” in their curriculum. It also asks for anti-bias training for district employees and school board members every semester, changes to disciplinary procedures and calls for further counseling services.

“The argument that we’re making isn’t about individual SROs,” Donnelly said. “Just having that institution (police) on campus creates stress, anxiety and pain.”

He said Taylor is not the only black student who’s walked the school’s halls and had a bad experience with an officer on campus.

“We see clear evidence of harm,” Donnelly said. “I’m not aware of any major benefits in keeping SROs on campus.”

Like Taylor, he would rather see the city or school district pay to hire more trained mental health professionals for students to use as resources for their problems than a uniformed and armed officer. He added the school’s unarmed security officers do “a great job” with other matters that might not be handled by counselors or therapists already. And he called the task force’s recommendation to remove SROs “a major development.”

“Our position is we don’t need to be having the police on our campus,” Donnelly said. “We’re hopeful that the city will take seriously the recommendation of the task force that it created.”



  1. B.S. Jumping on the popular bandwagon doesn’t mean the decision is correct. School Resource Officers started being deployed back in the 1970’s and served as an extremely positive influence. I would be suspect of these claims of creating an environment of “fear.”

  2. If there’s a mass shooting at LAHS, the people speaking last night against SROs will be the first to complain that there weren’t any officers on campus to stop the shooter.

    • There are’t any officers stationed on campus anyway. The SRO moves among many schools in Los Altos and in fact responds less than 20% of the time he/she is called by the high school. The other 80% of calls are handled by officers in the area or the police station (2 minutes away).

    • 80% means nothing.
      For example , In June 25 2019, the incident happened at Winding Way Los Altos. Due to the 911 call misrouted , the law enforcement officials did not arrive at the crime scene until 30 minutes after the residents called for help.
      If there’s a mass shooting at LAHS! No one help until 30 minutes? Can you imagine that?

  3. I applaud this decision. Having armed officers on campus, regardless of the intent, only serves to intimidate. The students who spoke are telling us about their experiences in our Los Altos High School. We need to listen. Why would we support a program that clearly makes some students feel singled out or harassed? The country is changing. Our towns are changing. Our schools need to change. I support funding mental health professionals who are trained to help our students feel safe, seen, heard and understood.

  4. It seemed that many of the speakers, such as those who were talking about defunding the police and having a world without police, were reading from scripts. Who wrote those scripts? Was there a group that was behind this push to eliminate police?

    • Good question. Only 28 students/former students responded to the survey (out of thousands) and quite a few of them had good things to say about SROs. Were the parents or teachers part of the discussion or just students?

  5. I spoke last night. I didn’t have a script. I spoke from the heart I said nothing about defunding the police. That’s an entirely different matter altogether. Speaking in a broader context, the “defund” rhetoric is misleading. I know of no-one who wants to defund the police. However, reprioritizing funding makes sense. Why are armed police responding to mental health needs? It puts everybody in jeopardy, including the officers.

    • What if the person with mental health needs is violent or has a weapon? Doesn’t that put everybody in jeopardy? Seems like the police are the de facto bad guys in this discussion and there’s an assumption that they’re hassling people without cause. I’m not saying this doesn’t happen, but there wasn’t any real data presented at the meeting. As Long-time Los Altan says below, the police weren’t given an opportunity to respond to any of the charges.

  6. Here’s the problem.

    1. If you break the law, you’re afraid of being caught by the police. So you don’t want them around. You want to shut down the police department, or “defund” them.

    2. If you obey the law, you don’t fear police. You’re actually happy they’re there because they keep things safe.

    It’s not a racial issue because it works this way whether you’re white, black, brown or turquoise. It doesn’t matter what your race is, just whether you break the law.

    And, of course, if you’re a law-breaker, you’re going to lie about it, and tell people that you’re being hounded by the police for no reason whatsoever except you’re race. As if police had time to follow you around for no reason. Sure, sure.

  7. The format of last night’s hearing was terribly unfair to the police. People were allowed to tell stories about how they were mistreated by police, but they offered no dates or specifics that allowed the police to respond and give their version of the alleged event. In fact, the police weren’t even allowed to respond to the speakers. If the hearing were about a restaurant or auto repair place, and people were allowed to make allegations without any specifics, everybody would see that as unfair to the business. But because it’s the police, we expect them to just take the baseless criticism without being able to respond. I wonder why the police would continue to work for a City Council that does something as unfair as this. I’m ashamed of the City Council.

  8. I spoke. I’m a parent of three caucasian students who went through the Los Altos school system. I did not have a prepared speech. I’ve followed the discussions, listened to the speakers, heard from teachers and talked to my children. I fully support the decision to remove SRO from campus. It’s misleading to equate this process with “defunding police”. That’s a completely different issue. That said, even those who are calling for “defunding” are really saying that we should reprioritize funding and having trained responders for mental health challenges.

  9. We don’t want some activist to teach us how to keep our neighborhood safe.
    That is odd thing. A few months ago, They don’t have problem with the councilwoman who used racist tone( “cotton picking mind”). Now they pick on LA law enforcement officers?

  10. Seattle’s mayor wanted to defund the police and then was surprised when the cops didn’t show up at her house to deal with violent protesters. If you want to get rid of the cops, like these high schoolers were urging, get ready to suffer the consequences. …. too bad our council caved to their demands.

  11. Replacing cops with mental health professionals is not realistic. For one, if a person is dangerous, they have to be stopped whether or not they are mentally disturbed, and a unarmed social worker will probably be unable to stop them. And, second, when cops get a call, like “there is an angry guy with a knife shouting” no one knows if they are crazy, drunk or will respond to a mental health worker, and you have to assume the worse and send a cop to protect others. If you wait, and let a mental health professional arrive and evaluate the situation first, and then call the cops, it may be far too late to protect the public.

  12. Police turn peaceful situations into violent ones. Get rid of police and have people committed to peace and justice mediate challenges in our community. Kindness always triumphs over violence and force.

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