CHICAGO — The city’s public schools won’t cut their ties with the Chicago Police Department, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said.
Protesters have demanded Chicago Public Schools cut their ties with the local Police Department — as has happened in Minneapolis — and remove officers from schools. Students, teachers and parents from the district also organized a march calling for the Chicago Police Department to be defunded.
The demands come amid protests throughout the city over the police killing of George Floyd, a Black man, in Minneapolis — and just a year after CPS approved a $33 million budget to employ Chicago Police officers in schools. Other cities including Portland and Minneapolis have reduced funding or vowed to remove police from schools in recent days.
But Lightfoot, speaking during a Friday press conference, said she won’t take away funding from the Police Department and its contract with CPS will remain.
“We’re not gonna do that,” Lightfoot said. “Unfortunately, we need security in our schools. We spent a lot of time a year ago working through challenges we had seen with police officers in our schools.”
Efforts to overhaul how school resource officers are used in student discipline have been ongoing and were sparked by federal oversight of the Police Department following the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald.
There has also been growing opposition to having officers on campuses, though local school councils with authority to make that decision unanimously voted last year to maintain police presence in schools.
“I think we’ve got a system in place now that works well and shows a limited ability of CPD to be in schools,” Lightfoot said. “But all of that is now in the hands of building principals and CPS, which is where it should have been from the very beginning.”
Activists have said the presence of police at schools increases the likelihood of Black and Brown students being sent to officers.
Rather than spend money on having police in schools, the city could use those millions to hire specialized therapists, to fund arts and extracurricular activities or for restorative justice, activists have suggested.
In a statement, Lightfoot’s office said the district spent the last year working with community members on the use of police in schools, and CPS has empowered Local School Councils to make their own decisions about whether or not to have school resource officers.
The hiring of social workers and nurses is another effort to reduce the need for police intervention.
“As our CPS educators have made clear to me, the first priority in bringing safety to any school setting is a strong, interconnected community that engages with the criminal justice system only as a last resort,” Lightfoot said in a statement.
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