CPS Board of Ed­u­ca­tion votes to keep CPD of­fi­cers in schools de­spite stu­dent protests


Chicago’s school board voted Wed­nes­day to re­new its con­tract with the Chicago Po­lice De­part­ment for one year, buck­ing the de­mands of Black stu­dents who say they’ve felt un­safe learn­ing amid a po­lice pres­ence.

The de­ci­sion marked the cul­mi­na­tion for the fore­see­able fu­ture of a tu­mul­tuous year of fierce protests that picked up last fall and rose to a weekly oc­cur­rence this sum­mer. When the Board of Ed­u­ca­tion elected not to ter­mi­nate the po­lice con­tract in a split vote in June, ac­tivists’ hopes re­mained alive know­ing an­other vote was com­ing later in the sum­mer. But af­ter Wed­nes­day’s vote, the is­sue is un­likely to come be­fore the board again in the com­ing months.

For at least the next year, Chicago Pub­lic Schools will op­er­ate with a re­vised, sig­nif­i­cantly cheaper po­lice con­tract, this time worth $12.1 mil­lion in­stead of $33 mil­lion, that in­cludes for the first time a de­tailed job de­scrip­tion for school cops and soft­ens the con­tract lan­guage to re­move heav­ily scru­ti­nized, mil­i­tary-style word­ing that pre­vi­ously de­scribed of­fi­cers’ school jobs as “tours of duty.”

The agree­ment pays the full salary and ben­e­fits for po­lice of­fi­cers work­ing in schools and their sergeants, though it could end up cost­ing CPS no money if the en­tire school year is held re­motely.

The con­tract comes with clearer guide­lines touted by Mayor Lori Light­foot as “ma­jor re­forms.” Of­fi­cers can­not in­ter­vene in school dis­ci­pline, can no longer en­ter stu­dent in­for­ma­tion into CPD’s con­tro­ver­sial gang data­base, should serve as a “role model in the stu­dents’ en­vi­ron­ment” and will un­dergo fur­ther train­ing on deal­ing with chil­dren of var­i­ous back­grounds. The city also vowed to put of­fi­cers through en­hanced train­ing and im­ple­ment more se­lec­tive re­quire­ments for cops to work in schools, in­clud­ing choos­ing of­fi­cers with “ex­cel­lent” dis­ci­plinary his­to­ries, which weren’t pre­vi­ously re­quired.

Board Pres­i­dent Miguel del Valle, Vice Pres­i­dent Send­hil Re­vu­luri and mem­bers Lu­cino Sotelo and Dwayne Truss voted in fa­vor of the con­tract. Mem­bers El­iz­a­beth Todd-Bre­land and Amy Rome voted against, while Luisiana Me­len­dez ab­stained.

Youth ac­tivists held a demon­stra­tion out­side CPS’ down­town head­quar­ters dur­ing the en­tire seven-hour vir­tual meet­ing.

Af­ter votes in re­cent weeks by dozens of Lo­cal School Councils, 17 schools have cho­sen to re­move their of­fi­cers, and 55 have de­cided to keep theirs. Schools that kicked out their po­lice will not be al­lowed to keep that money for other pro­grams.

CPS spokes­woman Emily Bolton said af­ter the vote that the district is “grate­ful that the board has hon­ored” the LSC de­ci­sions.

Re­vu­luri was the po­ten­tial swing vote that could have swayed the de­ci­sion. In June, he ap­peared on the fence un­til mo­ments be­fore the vote that ul­ti­mately kept the con­tract in­tact. On Wed­nes­day, he said the re­vised po­lice con­tract was bet­ter than its pre­de­ces­sor but still had holes, and that he per­son­ally wouldn’t vote to put of­fi­cers in his chil­dren’s school if he served on an LSC. Yet he voted for the con­tract any­way, he said, be­cause he doesn’t be­lieve fea­si­ble school safety al­ter­na­tives have been iden­ti­fied that don’t in­clude po­lice.

Re­vu­luri sub­mit­ted a res­o­lu­tion that com­pels Jack­son to pro­vide to the board by March 24 a list of al­ter­na­tives to the School Re­source Of­fi­cer, or SRO, pro­gram for schools to choose from for the next aca­demic year. The res­o­lu­tion passed with the ap­proval of the same mem­bers as the con­tract vote.

It cre­ates no guar­an­tee of­fi­cers would be re­moved from schools and doesn’t take the de­ci­sion out of the hands of LSCs.

Todd-Bre­land, who has ad­vo­cated for the re­moval of po­lice from schools for months, had urged her fel­low mem­bers ahead of the vote to lis­ten to the con­cerns of Black stu­dents and the data and re­search that shows stark racial dis­par­i­ties in school polic­ing.

“Be­cause of these in­di­vid­ual LSC votes, Black stu­dents, the stu­dents al­ready dis­pro­por­tion­ately harmed by po­lice, will have SROs in schools at sig­nif­i­cantly higher rates than other schools in the district,” Tod­dBre­land said. “We can­not solve a sys­temwide civil rights is­sue by shirk­ing our re­spon­si­bil­i­ties as a board and push­ing it onto the backs of in­di­vid­ual schools.

“I ask this body, the Board of Ed­u­ca­tion, what is your thresh­old for po­lice harm? And when will enough be enough?”

Todd-Bre­land and Rome, the other board mem­ber against the po­lice con­tract, of­fered di­rect crit­i­cisms of Light­foot, who ap­pointed both to their po­si­tions and still holds may­oral con­trol over the board. Todd-Bre­land said that “in a city that greets our chil­dren with raised bridges and riot gear, our stu­dents lead with joy and they dream a bet­ter fu­ture.” Rome said it was a “mis­take” for the mayor and CPS to leave the de­ci­sion to LSCs.


Stu­dents de­mand po­lice of­fi­cers be re­moved from schools in a protest out­side Chicago Pub­lic Schools head­quar­ters dur­ing a Board of Ed­u­ca­tion meet­ing Wed­nes­day.


El­iz­a­beth Tod­dBre­land

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