NORTHSIDE COL­LEGE PREP IS 1ST CPS SCHOOL TO BOOT COPS

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY NADER ISSA AND FRAN SPIELMAN Staff Re­porters

A North­west Side school has elected to re­move two po­lice of­fi­cers sta­tioned in its build­ing in a first-of-its-kind vote that of­fers a po­ten­tial pre­view of dozens more sim­i­lar de­ci­sions likely to be con­sid­ered in the coming weeks.

The school re­source of­fi­cers at Northside Col­lege Prepara­tory High School will be kicked out this fall af­ter the school’s elected body of par­ents, teach­ers and com­mu­nity mem­bers, along with a lone stu­dent, voted unan­i­mously Tues­day evening to make the change.

The de­ci­sion makes Northside’s Local School Coun­cil the first to yank its of­fi­cers as de­bates rage in the City Coun­cil and among the Board of Education over whether to ter­mi­nate a $33 mil­lion con­tract be­tween Chicago Pub­lic Schools and the Chicago Po­lice De­part­ment. There are about 200 of­fi­cers at 73 pub­lic schools cur­rently in the pro­gram.

Luna John­ston, the stu­dent mem­ber of Northside’s LSC, said Wed­nes­day she was in­spired by stu­dents, alumni and teach­ers who pushed in re­cent weeks for of­fi­cers to be re­moved.

“With the stu­dent push that we had and all the sta­tis­tics that we have on CPS SROs, I think that we made the right de­ci­sion,” John­ston, a 17-year-old ris­ing se­nior, said. “It’s not only huge be­cause it’s hav­ing an im­pact on stu­dents’ daily lives, but it’s set­ting the tone for what we care about as a school.”

Mayor Lori Light­foot and CPS of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing Jan­ice Jack­son, the district’s chief ex­ec­u­tive, have ar­gued against a blan­ket re­moval of of­fi­cers from schools. In­stead, they have said they would rather leave the choice up to LSCs, say­ing each in­di­vid­ual school has its own needs.

CPS put that de­ci­sion in the hands of LSCs ahead of last school year. Not a sin­gle LSC voted to re­move its of­fi­cers a year ago, but many mem­bers across the city said they re­ceived lit­tle in­for­ma­tion and min­i­mal no­tice be­fore vot­ing.

“We voted on it in Au­gust, and that was just a rushed vote that CPS said we had to make this de­ci­sion,” John­ston said. “We voted to keep our SROs just be­cause we knew our SROs and we didn’t have any per­sonal is­sues with them. But we didn’t re­ally un­der­stand what their job was and re­ally we voted con­di­tion­ally in hopes that CPS would add train­ing.”

Only schools that have of­fi­cers are be­ing asked to vote on whether to keep them; schools with­out cops aren’t be­ing asked whether they want to add po­lice. In all, 72 of 93 district-run high schools have of­fi­cers, and one of 43 char­ter high schools has an of­fi­cer.

CPS is ask­ing all LSCs with cops in their schools to vote by Aug. 15 on whether to re­move them. The district is hand­ing out an in­for­ma­tion packet next week to help mem­bers bet­ter un­der­stand the is­sue.

Light­foot on Wed­nes­day said she was nei­ther sur­prised nor dis­ap­pointed by the Northside LSC vote.

“The whole point is, those de­ci­sions should be made by the Local School Coun­cil,” Light­foot told re­porters at an un­re­lated event at Buck­ing­ham Foun­tain. “They shouldn’t be made by the mayor. They shouldn’t be made by the Board of Education.”

LSCs are “em­pow­ered” to “make the de­ci­sion that is in the best in­ter­est of their par­tic­u­lar schools,” the mayor said. “That’s what this dis­cus­sion should be about: Mak­ing sure that the peo­ple who are clos­est to it — who know what the in­di­vid­ual school en­vi­ron­ment is like in con­ver­sa­tion with par­ents, teach­ers and other stake­hold­ers.”

Stu­dents and ac­tivists have fought for years for po­lice-free schools, say­ing Black and Brown stu­dents face dis­pro­por­tion­ately harsh treat­ment by of­fi­cers who turn typ­i­cal child­hood be­hav­ior into a crim­i­nal record — caus­ing the so-called “school-to-prison pipe­line.”

Northside, one of the district’s high­es­trated and most pres­ti­gious schools, is dis­pro­por­tion­ately white com­pared with the rest of CPS. In a district that’s 10.8% white, 35.9% Black and 46.6% Latino, 31% of Northside’s stu­dents are white, 30.5% are Latino, 19.2% are Asian and 5.8% are Black.

A po­lice of­fi­cer only was called to in­ter­vene in one in­ci­dent at the school through­out the 2018-19 school year, the lat­est with data avail­able, ac­cord­ing to CPS records.

The move­ment to re­move of­fi­cers took a hit at the end of last month when Light­foot’s hand­picked school board, in a 4-3 vote, de­cided against end­ing the district’s con­tract with CPD. The agree­ment is set to ex­pire at the end of Au­gust, how­ever, mean­ing an­other vote is likely this month or the next.

CPS Alumni for Abo­li­tion, a group that has ad­vo­cated for po­lice-free schools along with sev­eral other or­ga­ni­za­tions in re­cent weeks, de­clared the vote a vic­tory for stu­dents.

“This vote is a mean­ing­ful step for both the stu­dents of Northside Col­lege Prep and for the district as a whole, who have con­tin­u­ously demon­strated their de­sire to at­tend schools that make them feel wel­come and safe,” the group said in a state­ment, adding the vote could set a prece­dent for other LSCs in the coming weeks.

PAT NABONG/SUN-TIMES

Ac­cord­ing to CPS records, a po­lice of­fi­cer was only called to in­ter­vene in one in­ci­dent at Northside Col­lege Prepara­tory High School through­out the 2018-19 school year.

Luna John­ston PRO­VIDED

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