CPS says police officers removed from 17 high schools, announces School Resource Officer program reforms

Thursday, August 20, 2020
City announce reforms for police in schools, student activists say it's not enough
Chicago Public Schools today announced, that as of this next year, 17 of the city's Public High Schools will no longer have Chicago police officers in their buildings.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and CPS CEO Janice Jackson announced reforms Wednesday to the School Resource Officer program for the 2020-2021 school year.

After weeks of allowing local school councils to make their own decisions, CPS announced Wednesday that as of this next year, 17 of the city's public high schools will no longer have Chicago police officers in their buildings.

"We have heard from our students loud and clear," said CPS CEO Dr. Janice Jackson.

Right now, Chicago Public Schools has a $33 million contract with the Chicago Police Department to provide school resource officers. Mayor Lightfoot has said that for now, CPS has no plans to dump that contract, but CPS said it anticipated reducing the funding to no more than $12 million for the 2021 fiscal year.

CPS CEO Janice Jackson, Mayor Lightfoot discuss SRO reforms

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and CPS CEO Janice Jackson announce reforms to the School resource Officer program Wednesday.

Fifty-five schools voted to keep their School Resource Officers, or SROs, but their partnership with CPD will undergo some changes, especially in terms of selection criteria and specific training officers will need to undergo.

"This year we're moving to excellent disciplinary history. Based on the feedback we've received. We've tightened those parameters to make sure we have people in the building who are supportive of our children based on their records," said Jadine Chou, CPS chief of safety and security.

The reforms announced Wednesday include requiring SRO officers to comply with the Welcoming City and Welcoming School ordinances to protect students from discrimination, including undocumented students.

RELATED: Lincoln Park High School council votes to remove SROs after student protest

SROs will also be prohibited from entering information into the CPD Criminal Enterprise Information System. The CPD terminals will also be removed from the schools so SROs will not have access to the database.

Principals will also be allowed to take an active role in the interview process for SROs.

All complaints against SROs will be directed to the Civilian Office of Accountability (COPA), rather than local police distrits.

The district will meet with Chicago police very two weeks to ensure compliance with the reforms. CPS received feedback about the issue from the public and surveyed the school community.

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Police officers will remain in Chicago Public Schools for now after the Chicago Board of Education narrowly voted to keep them Wednesday.

"These reforms to our SRO program have allowed those that have the pulse of their communities, Local School Councils, to pursue a safe school environment without the use of SROs and strengthened the program for LSCs who will continue to use it," said Mayor Lightfoot. "LSCs share our commitment to listening to the communities they serve and acting in their best interests. I applaud them for stepping up to generate the change they want to see and look forward to working with them as we continue to create an optimal school environment."

CPS will also partner with several community groups. Officers will get training with the Center for Childhood Resilience at Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago, which will provide training for school behavioral health teams including SRO officers, the University of Chicago Education Lab to analyze disparities in school-based arrests among the student population as well as the Mikva Challenge, which will develop a system to make sure students have a voice in the measurement of the program.

The reforms will go before the Chicago School Board at their meeting on August 26.

For West Ridge's Mather High School, the changes come a little too late.

"It's a good step, but to me it's not enough," said Derion Smith, recent graduate. "I think it's not enough because we don't need SROs. We need social workers who can talk to us on an everyday basis."

Mather is one of the 17 schools opting out of the SRO program. After losing one of their student leaders to gun violence earlier in August, the student body united to continue Caleb Reed's push to rid the school of police officers.

"With everything that's going on, I don't know how everyone thinks I'm supposed to feel when I see the same uniforms that are killing Black and brown folks like me," said Derriana Ford, senior at Mather.

It is estimated the reduction in the SRO program will save CPS around $3 million from what it previously budgeted. The district said the money will go to additional school supports.

Lincoln Park, Northside Prep and Lane Tech are other high schools that voted to remove officers.

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The Chicago Teachers Union marches downtown as the Chicago Board of Education considers removing police officers from CPS schools.