May 4, 2024

 CPS Removing Police Offers as Security Guards From Schools 

By Juliana Mendez and Mina Amir Ahmed 

Hancock High School photoJohn Hancock College Preparatory High School located at 5437 W. 64th Place. (Photo/Juliana Mendez)

Chicago’s Board of Education made a decision to remove police officers from Chicago Public Schools starting next school year.

The policy will to impact 39 high schools that still have a total of 57 officers on their campuses. 

The board of education members said they felt the need to remove police officers from their schools because they believed that students might have felt unsafe, threatened and scared to go to school. 

In 2019, Chicago schools began examining the issue, and in 2020 there were many protests of police brutality toward people of color that made the Chicago Board Of Education vote in February to end the school resource officer program and remove all Chicago police officers.

“I come to school to learn obviously,” John Hancock High School student Armando Gomez said. “I don’t ever come to school with plans to bring illegal substances or any dangerous weapons. Police officers being there would make me like I don’t know, just make me feel uncomfortable.”

Edgar Garcia has been working at Golder College Prep for eight years. He was a former dean and is currently part of the enrollment and recruitment coordinator at the school. 

Garcia said he believes that having police on school grounds can impact students mentally because some students may feel safe with police officers at schools while others may feel unsafe and uncomfortable. 

Garcia explained that Golder College Prep has a culture team member in which the job is to provide safety and security for our school community. This shows that there are other resources available for schools to look into before they go straight into needing police in their schools.

“I think that removing police from our schools can have a potential positive impact on students, because one, it shows them right that we feel comfortable enough to see that they can be safe in the school without a police officer present,” he said. “But at the same time, too, for certain areas, you never know what could happen at any moment.”

Garcia said he has experienced and seen certain situations where officers shouldn’t be coming to school for something small or they should not be the first people to contact if it is something other faculty members at a school can solve. 

Having police officers at schools can create a negative impact on students because they are already at school for 8 hours from Monday through Friday and in some schools they have metal detectors. For some students they felt like they were in prison.

Dean Adams, who works in special education, has an interest in the intersections of disability studies and women’s and gender studies. His area of expertise is the critical analysis of educational systems using frameworks such as DisCrit, which highlights the ways in which disability, illness, and racism are embedded in these institutions. Adams is well known for his perceptive examinations of the school-to-prison pipeline, educational settings’ use of aversives for behavior change, and behavior management techniques in those settings. He currently shares his experience by instructing classes that address topics pertaining to kids and the criminal justice system.

As a former special education teacher, Adams worked with many young children who had been classified as emotionally disturbed, mentally ill, at-risk or juvenile offenders. He taught at multiple schools as well.

Adams noticed that many of the students he was working with were African American or Latino male and of low economic status. 

“I think that this has been a win for communities,” he said. “And the reason I say that is because there have been studies that show that having police in schools increases the chances of kids of color being suspended or arrested in schools for things that before we would just send kids to detention or something like that.”

CPS schools are also granted to create a whole new school safety system and will receive funding to invest in alternative safety strategies. 

The board of education has given $3.9 million in total funds to be invested in staff and program-related alternative safety interventions such as crossing guards, safe passage workers, security officers, and security cameras to ensure students are safe to be at school. 

The Chicago Teachers Union is committed to the changes of removing SROs (School Resource Officer) within District schools and instead supports more supportive interventions instead of going straight into harsh consequences. 

Adams said that other resources can help students mentally and help students feel safe by preventing chaos between students and other types of violence such as more social workers, more nurses, more activities, and more school counselors. 

This shows actions toward the school-to-prison pipeline. The school-to-prison pipeline is kids being constantly disciplined through harsh conditions, which makes students stop going to school and then they either get in our juvenile system or get in Child Protective Services where they are constantly surveilled. When at school they are already being surveilled by police officers.

“That pathway from schools, some people would call it the cradle to prison pipeline, and we forget that kids are in school for so many years. So schools are implicit in this, you know, and we, as educators need to remember how we are complicit in these kids, and how do we follow this trajectory? And how do they stop there? I think educators are a key to stopping the school-to-prison pipeline,” Adams said. 

The decision to remove police officers from schools has been something that many parents and people of color have requested, especially students who are there most of the time. 

Students will feel much more comfortable and safe if they see their school as a healthy environment where they have many other resources that do not involve police officers unless it is their last resort.

“I think kids need to have a say and what they want, because they’re the ones that are living this,” Adams said. “And they can tell you how they feel about it. Right? If we’re not listening to the kids and what they need in school, then we’re really doing a disservice because they’re the ones living it every day.” 

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