Chicago Youth Demand #PoliceFreeSchools
“In Chicago there is a lot of trauma connected to police. Walking into these schools makes us feel unwanted, like the police are protecting the school from us. We get yelled at, watched, harassed, arrested, put into gang databases, and put in danger of deportation." -Citlali, CPS Senior
On September 13th, Students from organizations across the city came together to demand Chicago Public Schools replace police in schools with counselors and restorative justice.
Over 200 police officers operate in 74 schools, primarily in black and brown neighborhoods in Chicago, but neither the Chicago Police Department nor Chicago Public Schools can produce an up-to-date roster of the officers. This is just one finding in the Office of Inspector General report on the School Resource Officer (SRO) program that documents a complete lack of accountability, oversight, and regulation.
School should be a safe and welcoming place for all students and their parents. They should not expose students to detrimental interactions with the criminal justice system. The Shriver Center report, Handcuffs in Hallways from 2017, found over $2 million in settlement payments from 2012-2016 for instances involving SROs, and that from 2013 - 2014, 31% of student arrests were of students with disabilities.
The findings of the OIG report further confirm that the placement of police officers in CPS is jeopardizing the safety, education, and civil rights of students. Students, parents, and teachers have no faith in the unelected Board of Education and demand that an elected, and representative school board determine the future of the SRO program.
At the press conference, students called on Chicago Public Schools to:
1. suspend the use of police officers in schools until a full audit by the Office of Inspector General is completed that includes quantitative and qualitative data on all data on students arrests, use of force, stops, searches, interrogations, and sharing of student information.
2. Schools are desperately in need of resources after years of cuts. Police officers formerly stationed in schools should be replaced by additional counselors and social workers to ensure that schools are able to use restorative approaches to conflict.
Mackenzie, a BPNC youth leader said, " Seeing them in my school made me feel the same way as when I see them on the streets. Uneasy. CPS will take away our music classes and after-school programs if it means keeping officers and security to our building. This goes beyond school-to-prison pipeline. By having police in schools they have created a prison-to-prison pipeline." Organizations included BPNC, Assata's Daughters, STOP Chicago, Arab American Action Network, Enlace Chicago, Asian American's Advancing Justice, and the Chicago Teachers Union.