CPS Details New Safety Plan as District Prepares to Remove Resource Officers From Schools

(Michael Izquierdo / WTTW News)(Michael Izquierdo / WTTW News)

As Chicago Public Schools moves to fully remove police officers from its buildings, education officials are planning a phased-in approach to its new school safety plans.

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The Board of Education at its agenda review committee meeting Wednesday discussed a final draft version of the school district’s proposed whole school safety plan, which will begin to be implemented this fall.

“This has been a journey,” CPS Chief of Safety and Security Jadine Chou said.

The policy proposal comes after the board approved a resolution in February directing CPS to remove all school resource officers (SROs) from buildings by the start of next school year.

The board took no official action Wednesday, but it will authorize a public comment period on the draft policy next week and is expected to vote on the policy at its June meeting.

District officials said the new framework is built around three main pillars of holistic safety: the physical safety of students and staff, emotional safety and relational trust.

According to a draft version of the policy included in the agenda for Wednesday’s meeting, it is set to be implemented in phases through a tiered criteria based on each school’s  use of exclusionary disciplinary practices such as out-of-school suspensions and police notifications, with a focus on the disproportionate application of those actions.

Beginning next year, CPS will provide all schools with specific data metrics in order to conduct a baseline assessment of their safety, culture and climate, the draft policy states. In subsequent years, schools would be required to create individual whole school safety committees based on those assessments and implement their own safety plans.

While police officers would no longer be working in schools, each school must have at least one security officer and should utilize security cameras on their campus, the draft policy states.

There is also an emphasis on training in the draft policy, as all schools must incorporate “climate, trauma-responsive, and social and emotional learning training into their annual school-wide professional development plans.”

Chicago and many other cities across the country began rethinking policing strategies following the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police in 2020.

Students and advocates in Chicago began pushing CPS that summer to remove all police from school buildings, saying their presence had a disproportionately negative impact on Black students and strengthened the school-to-prison pipeline.

CPS eventually agreed to let individual local school councils decide whether they wanted to add, maintain or eliminate SRO positions at their schools on a yearly basis. But February’s resolution set the stage for the full removal of all SROs, regardless of any LSC votes.

Chou said the district didn’t want its new safety plans to be “just a policy on paper,” but rather “something that was going to stick, ideally for years to come.”

“This policy builds on the District’s existing Healing-Centered Framework and wellness and social-emotional learning policies and initiatives, and was developed to meet the needs of CPS communities,” district officials said of the proposed policy. “In addition, the use of School Resource Officers within District, Charter, Contract, and Options schools will conclude at the end of the 2023-2024 school year, understanding that the District will continue its strong partnership with the Mayor’s Office and the Chicago Police Department, which have always, and will continue to, provide critical support for all of our schools.”

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

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