CPS Looking to Improve Transparency, Accountability as It Continues to Rethink School Safety

Video: Pedro Martinez, the head of Chicago Public Schools responds to criticisms over proposed budget cuts and school district COVID-19 policies. (Produced by Evan Garcia)

Chicago Public Schools said it expects to begin publishing student discipline and safety data in the coming weeks, a year after dozens of high schools voted to reduce or eliminate their school resource officer (SRO) programs.

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Amid calls for increased transparency and accountability in CPS’ safety plans, the district’s Chief Safety and Security Officer Jadine Chou said she hopes to have school-level data from the first semester of this year published soon in order to show parents where the current plan is working and where it’s not.

“That is what we’ll plan, again, to be more transparent on,” she said. “So it’s on our website, so that people who send their children to XYZ school, they can go on our website and see how that’s working, what does the data show, what are the perceptions.”

The police killing of George Floyd in 2020 sparked a push to reform policing across the country, including in Chicago, where student-led protests pressured CPS to terminate its existing contract with the Chicago Police Department to provide resource officers in high schools.

The district eventually agreed to let the local school councils (LSCs) at individual schools decide whether to keep their full SRO program, reduce it to one officer, or eliminate the program completely.

Last year, 64% of those LSCs voted to either reduce or remove SROs from their schools. Chou on Wednesday said those schools that did eliminate SRO positions will not be allowed to reverse those decisions, but were instead collectively given nearly $3.3 million to cover the costs of “alternative safety interventions” — things like security officers, restorative justice coordinators, and youth intervention specialists.

Chou joined leaders from a steering committee comprised of several community-based organizations at Wednesday’s Board of Education meeting to provide an update on new recommendations on the district’s whole school safety planning and engagement process.

Those groups — which include The Ark of St. Sabina, BUILD Inc, Community Organizing and Family Issues, Mikva Challenge and Voices of Youth in Chicago Education — have called on the district to improve transparency and accountability around its safety plan, get more students involved in the decision-making process and promote conversations about SRO alternatives.

Specifically, they want CPS to update school communities regularly on things like SRO decisions, program implementation progress and other safety plans, while also monitoring accountability metrics like police notification and arrest data and the number of student suspensions and expulsions.

“Any entity that is servicing parents and [the] community should be transparent and engaging the people that it serves,” Karen Lynn Morton of Community Organizing and Family Issues said Wednesday.

After implementing these recommendations, schools that continue employing SROs will be required to participate in a school safety process in the coming months that includes reconvening their individual Whole School Safety Committees, gathering community feedback and holding an LSC vote on the status of their remaining SROs no later than June 15.

As this process continues, steering committee members said they hope to continue “pushing the envelope” on how schools shift safety from a punitive strategy to more holistic measures.

“There’s a really great foundation,” Juleny Santa Cruz of Mikva Challenge said, “and the opportunity to build off of that foundation and see it evolve and really be able to work out the kinks and whatever else is needed on an individual basis is a huge opportunity.”

Contact Matt Masterson: @ByMattMasterson[email protected] | (773) 509-5431

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