Video: The Chicago Board of Education approves a new one-year contract with the police department for school resource officers. Our Spotlight Politics team digs into that story and more in this week’s roundtable. (Produced by Marissa Nelson)
Some Chicago public schools will retain their resource officers, following a split vote by the Board of Education to approve a one-year, $11 million contract with the Chicago Police Department.
During its monthly meeting Wednesday, the board voted 4-2 to extend an intergovernmental agreement that will provide school resource officers (SROs) only in buildings where local school councils have opted to retain them.
Per Chicago Public Schools, of 53 schools that had SRO programs last year, 23 have voted to keep only one of two resource officers in their schools, while 10 others voted to remove both SROs. The remaining 20 schools voted to keep both their SROs.
CPS Chief Safety and Security Officer Jadine Chou said those local school councils are able to reconsider their decision and vote to remove their officers at any point.
According to Chou, the new agreement is largely similar to the previous deal, though language has been included to make clear that SROs are “not there to get involved in disciplinary issues.” Chou said CPS has also taken $3.2 million that had previously been earmarked for SROs, and has reinvested those dollars in “more supportive/proactive supports for students” such as restorative justice or culture and climate building.
But two board members, Elizabeth Todd-Breland and Luisiana Melendez, voted against the contract Wednesday, as they’ve done in the past, citing concerns over the school-to-prison pipeline and its “disproportionate negative impact” on Black students and those with disabilities.
“While I understand other people’s belief that this is a decision that should happen at the school level, the global impact of that, for me, is something that resides at the board level,” she said.
Todd-Breland added that CPS has done more to engage students and stakeholders on these issues, and has a stated goal of eliminating the school-to-prison pipeline.
Part of that engagement has included working with a steering committee of youth-led groups including Voices of Youth in Chicago Education and Mikva Challenge to rethink policing and safety in schools.
In a statement, those groups said shifting $3.2 million is a “welcome policy change that we believe will improve the educational environment for Chicago Public School students.” Though more work is still necessary to improve the school safety process.
“Our goal is to fully transform school environments that center the emotional, physical and mental-health needs of students, especially students of color,” the groups said. “That will include developing school-wide strategies to address the disparities in police notifications and school safety and applying lessons learned to develop system-wide strategies and tools to fully transform school safety across CPS.”