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It’s Time To Get Police Out Of Schools, New Ordinance Says — But Will Mayor Get On Board?

"We don't need police officers and people with guns in public education or education, period," said Ald. Jeanette Taylor.

Protesters march on Armitage Avenue during a protest demanding that Chicago Public Schools divest from the Chicago Police Department on June 4, 2020.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — A newly proposed ordinance would cut ties between Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Police Department, as other major cities have done in recent days.

The ordinance would call for the $33 million contract between the two agencies to be severed within 75 days of it being passed and would prohibit future contracts, according to a press release.

That would mean school resource officers would be pulled out of the city’s public schools. Advocates hope the school district would instead spend that money on social workers, therapists, nurses and other resources for students.

“… Our students are being criminalized for being students at CPS, and that’s not right,” Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th) said when announcing the proposed ordinance Tuesday morning. “We want to make sure that our children have every opportunity to learn and grow from children to young adults. And police officers in school are not the answer.”

Sawyer and other speakers at the Tuesday morning press conference said police do not need to be involved with disciplining children, since that can lead to students being detained or arrested, and they frighten Black and Brown children.

Ald. Jeanette Taylor (20th) said it should be common sense that the district’s $33 million should be spent on filling caregiving and educational roles for students rather than on police.

Taylor and Sawyer said they want officers physically out of schools and not involved with disciplining children. Speakers pointed out videos from across the country have shown officers in schools harming children.

Taylor said when she was in school, there were security workers who were also community members. When Taylor acted out, one would take her aside and speak to her and treated her lovingly — not in the way police now mistreat students, the alderman said.

“Just imagine how traumatic it is to see one of your classmates who had a bad day taken out of the school in handcuffs. That’s a reality we see too often in Chicago Public Schools,” Taylor said. At another point, she added, “We don’t need police officers and people with guns in public education or education, period.”

One speaker, Mather High School student Caleb Reed, said he was once arrested for attending a basketball game because he didn’t have his ID. Reed said he was detained in a police station for six hours, confused and angry but trying to remain calm.

“We need CPS and CPD to cut this contract and put this money toward our schools and our students because we’re going through things every day,” Reed said.

Sawyer said police should “stay in their lane” and be focused on doing what they do best, which is handling crime. Cutting the contract would allow that to happen and make it possible for school workers to do what they do best, like caring for and teaching children, the alderman said.

“We’re talking about once [students] get into school, once they pass a metal detector and a wand check … we need those kids to focus on learning, focus on being a good person, focus on the skills that we want them to have to succeed in life,” Sawyer said. “One of those skills is not … how to put your hands behind your back.”

Other major cities have already cut ties or have vowed to between their public schools and police departments in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

But CPS just last year approved its $33 million budget to employ Chicago Police officers in schools.

Activists have called for Chicago to end the contract. Students, teachers and parents from the district even organized a march calling for the Chicago Police Department to be defunded.

But Mayor Lori Lightfoot said earlier this month Chicago Public Schools won’t cut its contract with the Police Department.

“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.”

Activists have said the presence of police at schools increases the likelihood of Black and Brown students being sent to jail.

“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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