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Security unsafe for Detroit students

security guardBy Phreddy Wischusen
The Michigan Citizen

DETROIT — Security guards are supposed to keep students safe, according to school administrators. However, a recent trend of physical contact between guards and students at Detroit Public Schools have parents, students and residents questioning that assumption.

A video of Cass Tech star quarterback Jayru Campbell “body slamming” a security guard surfaced Jan. 22. Many believe Campbell was protecting himself. “I think the whole situation was self-defense,” Campbell’s teammate Jamaal Brown told Fox2 News. “When somebody puts their hands on you, you got a right to defend yourself.”

In another report, the security guard, “who doesn’t want to be named” tweeted soon after the incident, “Slam me when i’m not looking, lol, pussy. Hit me when i’m looking at you … bet i whoop your ass. I got dropped and got right back up!” Responding to queries about the incident, the guard also tweeted, “Pussy grabbed … up when i wasn’t looking. He then took off when I tried to snatch him up.”

This paper attempted several times to get information about the guard from DPS and Securitas, the private company that employs him; each attempt was ignored. Another video of the incident, shot from a different angle surfaced on social media and shows the guard did not have his back turned when Campbell grabbed him.  The students appear to be yelling at the guard, “Why you gotta instigate?”

A request for a warrant was submitted to the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office regarding the incident but charges have not yet been filed.

Campbell’s future hangs in limbo as Michigan State University, where he’s expected to enter in 2015 and play football, has yet to release a statement on his status as an entering freshman in 2015.

Cass Tech, however, is not the only DPS school under emergency management where private security guards have been at the center of controversy.

At Marquette Elementary-Middle School on the city’s east side, 12-year-old Stephon Clark was apparently body-slammed and shoved repeatedly by a guard, according to a video released on social media last spring.

Clark reportedly spent five days in the hospital after the incident in March 2013 because of damage done to her pancreas during the attack, according to media reports. She was also badly bruised. Initially, the school tried to suspend Clark, as the security guard claimed he never touched the female student. The guard said the girl had attacked him.

The video presents a different story, showing Clark being pushed by the guard, then dragged by a teacher, and finally, body-slammed twice by the guard.

In the weeks that followed, Clark’s mother, Gloria Wilson, said the guard continued to harass her daughter, until she filed a personal protection order against him.  After the filing of the PPO, Wilson said the guard left Marquette but is now working in another DPS school.

DPS reportedly investigated and determined “the proper amount of force” had been used by the guard.

On Jan. 23, Roquesha O’Neal, president of the Osborn Evergreen Academy parent group and mother of an honor roll student at the high school, was asked to leave the school’s campus after advocating for three male students who were being challenged by a security guard.

At 9 a.m., one hour into the school day, O’Neal says she stepped into the hallway to get some fresh air after having counseled a young man whose mother had just died. There, she says, “I saw one security guard and three young men.” O’Neal described the guard as “harassing” the students, which she says is a daily occurrence. O’Neal says the guard alleged the students had been smoking marijuana in the bathroom, because of a marijuana cigarette he found. The three young men denied smoking and said they had just arrived in the building. O’Neal knew the young men and was skeptical of the guard’s accusation. She says she asked the students if she could smell their hands. “I smelled their hands and they didn’t smell like weed,” O’Neal told the Michigan Citizen.

Osborn Evergreen Dean of Culture Phillip Miller then approached and told O’Neal to stop interfering with security. O’Neal went into the school’s Human Services center to entreat someone to advocate on the students’ behalf. She says they were in a meeting and unable to leave at the time.  When she went back into the hall, the boys and the guards were gone.

She says she returned to the parent resource room where she and other parents were with the student who had just lost his mother, when a security guard came and ordered O’Neal and two other volunteer parents, Shoniqua Kemp and Beatricis Banks, to leave the campus. O’Neal doesn’t know what happened to the young men as she and Banks are now prohibited from entering school grounds (Kemp was invited back).

O’Neal’s concerns for the three students go deeper than mere protocol. Two of the three boys the guard confronted that day, she believes, were homeless. If they had been expelled, there was no place for them to go; the temperature outside was 12 degrees. In addition to working in the school, O’Neal is on the board of the Osborn Neighborhood Alliance. She says the Osborn school district has more homeless students and families than any other district in the city. O’Neal claims the school will not admit students who are tardy.

Once the 8 a.m. bell rings, the doors are locked and late students are unable to enter. She and other parents, including Kemp have observed and photographed the doors being locked with chains and padlocks from the inside, a violation of fire code and a safety hazard. In addition to the fire hazard, this policy is dangerous to the students’ health, especially the homeless ones who often have a hard time getting to and from school, O’Neal says. Not only are students missing out on education, they are also losing free lunches and breakfasts; these are the only meals some of them may have access to during the day. “We don’t want the school to close,” O’Neal said. “We just want them to do right by the kids.”

DPS also ignored The Michigan Citizen’s inquiries about the chained doors, student homelessness and the district’s tardiness and expulsion policies.

As reported in the Michigan Citizen, in 2010, then DPS Emergency Manager Robert Bobb contracted Securitas to provide security in the schools at an estimated $6.5 million for that year, with contract extensions available. Bobb also contracted for the construction of a new security headquarters at $5.6 million.

Before the first year was out, a Securitas guard assaulted student Tremayne Johnson at Mumford High school (now a part of the Educational Achievement Authority district).

Securitas AB is a Swedish-based, privately-owned security firm. One of the largest security companies in the world. In 1999, Securitas acquired the American security company Pinkerton. Pinkerton employees killed union organizers and striking workers during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, at the behest of their corporate employers, such as Carnegie Steel.

Multiple attempts to reach DPS for comments regarding the incidents involving security guard’s violent physical encounters with students and their policy on guard-student interaction, went unanswered.

The Michigan Citizen could not determine how much the emergency-managed district spends on security. There is no line item designated for security or anything synonymous in the posted Proposed Budget for the 2013-2014 Fiscal Year or in the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for the Fiscal Year Ended June 30, 2013.

Calls regarding this were also ignored.

Securitas also failed to respond to a request for an interview about the hiring/training of security guards in DPS schools, and their corporate policies on employee conduct in schools, and how their guards are compensated.

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