In October 2011, BOP launched the BOSS campaign. We were inspired by the murder of Raheim Brown, a 20-year old Black male who was shot by Oakland School Police Sgt. Barhin Bhatt after he allegedly stabbed police Sgt. Jonathan Bellusa with a screwdriver during a traffic stop. Like many mothers who lose their children to violence, Raheim’s mother was left trying to seek justice and the community watched as Oakland Unified School District and others turned their backs. Our members wanted justice for Raheim, but thought it was critical to look at the broader issues and find out how to prevent this kind of tragedy from happening again.
After months of research, strategy sessions and community outreach we decided to launch the Bettering Our School System campaign to:
- End the criminalization of Black and Brown students in the Oakland Unified School District
- Invest in alternative models for school safety (end reliance on police)
- Restructure the current policies and practices within OUSD that don’t take a restorative justice approach to student discipline and that perpetuate the school to prison pipeline.
Time to Win
Since the launch of our campaign, we have gotten OUSD board representatives to pass a complaint policy for students and other community members to file complaints with the district regarding any misconduct by Oakland School Police. What this means is that if anyone feels they’ve been mistreated by the school police or suspect a school police officer has been acting offensively, for any reason, there is now an OUSD policy which allows for complaints to be made about that officer. What this means is more transparency and accountability where there was none before.
What Can You Do?
By coming together with other community members, you can share your vision for safe schools and come up with a plan for realizing that vision. It is possible to really invest in the best practices that are already in place- to model a preventative and effective approach to safety that is not reliant on law enforcement, but on community strength, mutual respect and understanding.
Join the Black Organizing Project in making Oakland schools safe!