Helix High students walked out of school on January 22, 2018 after a video of a police officer throwing an arrested teen to ground surfaced online. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

One of the most striking things from a journalism perspective over the last several weeks has been to see how closely our years’ worth of reporting on police misconduct has aligned with our years’ worth of reporting on teacher misconduct.

In both cases, the public employees involved hold a position that involves unique power and access. Kids must attend school; the public must follow cops’ orders.

In both cases, it’s nearly impossible to fire even the worst actors, whether it’s a teacher who repeatedly touched girls or a police officer who knocked his wife unconscious.

In both cases, politicians have shied away from pursuing reforms involving either group.

In both cases, the public employee unions that protect each group have stalled or stymied the few reforms that are proposed to protect the public, whether it’s legislation to prevent abusive teachers from moving from school to school, or legislation to rein in police use of deadly force.

The issues overlap in an even more obvious way, too: School districts in California directly employ their own police forces. Few states operate this way.

Even in the last few years, we’ve seen the disturbing and downright weird impact this can have. There was the time Montgomery High School carried out a fake active shooter drill to provide cover for police to track down and arrest students suspected in a crime. How this ruse furthered anyone’s education isn’t clear (perhaps because, well, it didn’t).

Then there was the time San Diego Unified drew national ridicule because its police department obtained a tank from the federal government’s military surplus program that it said it would use to … deliver teddy bears. This is an actual thing that happened.

Having police on campus means that any instinct teachers have to discriminate against students of color can become not just educational problems but criminal ones.

In our new weird coronavirus world, who knows how these inequities could play out. Certain students are already disciplined far more than others; will black students be suspended more often for showing up to school without a mask? For not washing their hands? It might sound silly, but literally nothing sounds as silly as a teddy bear delivery tank, and that already happened.

As we continue to hash out what schools will look like next year and beyond, we should be weighing these issues just as intensely as we’re weighing Plexiglas and distance learning plans.

What VOSD Learned This Week

MTS wrote nearly 1,500 fare evasion tickets in a single week in June 2019 – and Lisa Halverstadt’s stunning investigation found 86 percent of them went unresolved a year later, sometimes with consequences that upended people’s lives. Halverstadt talked about her story and MTS’s proposal to address the issue on this week’s podcast.


SDPD’s budget has taken center stage in the debate over police reform. Ashly McGlone broke down what all those millions of dollars actually pay for. The district attorney has her own agenda for police reform, but it doesn’t include prosecuting more officers who commit crimes. State lawmakers have their own ideas about new laws to police the police. And Adriana Heldiz rounded up her most compelling photos from police protests across the county. Many of those protests were organized by young people participating in a political movement for the first time.


It won’t shock you to learn that San Diego’s first black teachers dealt with some bullshit. Over in our weird present day, distance learning continues to suck but there are still many questions about what next school year will look like.


SDG&E’s 50-year deal with the city to provide the system of electric poles, gas lines and wires that deliver residents’ electricity is coming to an end. SDG&E wants to re-up the deal, but some new suitors are in the mix too.


Remember the pandemic? Kayla Jimenez delved into how fertility clinic closures brought more grief and delays to people who’ve already experienced plenty in trying to start a family.

The coronavirus has also made what was already a bad year even worse for local radio stations.

The Convention Center, meanwhile, is banking on large conventions resuming in December.

What I’m Reading

Line of the Week

“Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are no longer the designated meals of the day. Now there is ‘eating,’ ‘not eating,’ and ‘thinking about what to eat next.’ Sometimes ‘eating’ takes place from dawn until dusk. Other times, you will just go back and forth between ‘eating’ and ‘thinking about what to eat next’ until you pass out.” – If I’m being honest, this is how I’ve always lived.

Sara Libby was VOSD’s managing editor until 2021. She oversaw VOSD’s newsroom and content.

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