Recent shootings near Portland schools prompt security discussions

By Jeff Thompson (OPB), Lillian Mongeau Hughes (OPB) and Rob Manning (OPB)
Jan. 12, 2023 1:20 a.m.

Portland school and police leaders have been in talks about how to confront a pattern of gun violence outside the city’s high schools. No specific plan has yet been announced.

Five Portland high school students have been hit by gunfire in four incidents near school buildings since October. Officials have not connected the violence to motivations in line with what has been seen from perpetrators of mass shootings at schools.


No one has been killed at the shootings outside Jefferson, Cleveland and Franklin high schools. Two students were injured outside Jefferson in October and one student was injured at each subsequent shooting.

In a statement this week, Portland Public Schools Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero expressed relief that no one was seriously injured in the Franklin High shooting, which occurred outside during a basketball game, and that a suspect had been arrested. Guerrero is calling for a “comprehensive neighborhood safety plan” aimed at protecting children, as well as adults, from gun violence around Portland.

“[W]e will accelerate talks with the City and PPB to step up patrols in the immediate neighborhood around schools,” Guerrero said this week.

District officials have said additional information on security efforts could be shared this week.


Neither Portland Public School leaders nor Portland Police Bureau officials have made any statements since Monday about further security steps.

Police tape blocks a tree-lined street where cars are parked. A police car is visible in the distance.

Police tape blocks off North Commercial Street near Jefferson High School after shots were fired on Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2022.

Jonathan Levinson, Jonathan Levinson / OPB

Before the most recent shooting, the idea of bringing police officers back into Portland schools had been raised at a meeting of the police bureau’s Focused Intervention Team Community Oversight Group.

“There’s some talk or conversations about…maybe bringing back a school resource officer,” said Lt. Kenneth Duilio at the Jan. 5 meeting. Duilio leads the Focused Intervention Team, which started this year and is meant to reduce gun violence in the city.

“I just know there’s been some conversations based on the incidents that happened around Jefferson High School, and then the other shooting that happened over at Cleveland High School,” Duilio said. “And that’s really up to the [police] chief’s level with the Superintendent for PPS.”

School resource officers are police officers specifically assigned to work inside schools to aid with security and discipline. School districts across the country, including in Portland, committed to removing such officers from their schools in the wake of the 2020 racial justice protests.

Stephanie Howard, the mayor’s Director of Community Safety, clarified at the January meeting that nothing had been decided about restarting the school resource officer program and that any change to current policy would be determined “certainly, with community input.”

Studies have shown that such officers often discipline Black and Hispanic students at higher rates than white students, according to an overview of what’s known about school resource officers by Education Week, a nonprofit publication covering news about schools. But should Portland reverse its decision to remove such officers from schools, it would not be alone. Cities including Pomona, Calif., Alexandria, Va. and Champaign, Ill. have reversed course on their initial decision to cut school resource officers.

OPB’s Jonathan Levinson and Elizabeth Miller contributed to this story.


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