Allegheny County

Pittsburgh Public Schools considers reallocating funds intended for school police officers

PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Public Schools was set to receive thousands of dollars in grant funding to help beef up its dwindling school police force.

But the head of the teachers union tells Channel 11 that money is being spent elsewhere.

In a public hearing Monday night, Pittsburgh Public School teachers and union representatives spoke to the school board in support of school police.

“There are too few security personnel within our schools so that a safe environment can be fostered,” said Saul Straussman, an Allderdice High School teacher.

Currently, the teachers union says there are 12 school police officers to protect 55 schools with the help of around 60 security guards.

That’s down from 22 officers last year, according to Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers President Nina Esposito-Visgitis.

“Our teachers, we took a survey right before COVID hit, 96% support school police in the schools, find them to be a positive force,” she said.

At its last meeting, the school board voted to amend a $474,000 safety and security grant from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.

Esposito-Visgitis says $27,000 of that grant was earmarked for a program that would allow eight school security guards to receive the training required from the IUP Police Academy to become certified school police officers over the next two years.

“It seemed like a no-brainer,” said Esposito-Visgitis. “It’s no cost to the district and it promotes within. They know our kids, they know our schools.”

Agenda documents show that $27,000 is set to be reallocated for a three-day basic school security personnel training and school police dispatch equipment.

“Our security guards are great too, but they don’t have the training. Our school police are police officers. They were trained at the academy. They are police officers,” Esposito-Visgitis said.

While the majority of speakers showed support for school police, not everyone was in favor of adding more officers.

“I don’t agree that police keep our schools safe. I think we’re conflating a need for police with a need for building other systems that would function to change the conditions that create the horrific environment that we’re hearing about tonight,” said Emily Sawyer, a parent of five PPS students.

11 News reached out to the school board about its decision but has not heard back.

The vote to approve the reallocation of grant funding is set for Wednesday.

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