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Roberto Clemente School Council Wants Police Out — But First They Want To Hear From Neighbors

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Chicago Public Schools chief Janice Jackson don't support unilaterally removing officers, and say local school councils should make the final call.

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UKRAINIAN VILLAGE — Members of a Roberto Clemente Community Academy advisory council are leaning toward removing in-school police officers — but before they make a final decision, they want to hear from the community.

The Roberto Clemente local school council, comprising parents, teachers and one student, met virtually on Wednesday to discuss the issue. In a preliminary vote, the group voted 8-3 in favor of eliminating school resource officers. Two members were absent.

The vote was “advisory” and therefore not binding, LSC secretary Daniel Marre said.

“We’d like input from all stakeholders in the community,” he said. “We’re not an island onto ourselves. We are part of the community. We want to be a good neighbor. Just reach out.”

Having police officers in schools has become a focal point in national demonstrations protesting police violence in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis.

Several large cities, including Minneapolis, since have moved to eliminate police presence in public schools.

The Chicago Public School Board narrowly voted in June to not sever the school district’s $33 million contract with the police department.

There are 72 CPS schools with full-time resource officers, according to district chief of security Jadine Chou. Other officers, including sergeants, are on call for nearby schools.

Additionally, there are between 1,100-1,200 security officers throughout the district not included in the $33 million contracts, Chou said.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Chicago Public Schools chief Janice Jackson don’t support unilaterally removing officers, saying instead that local school councils should make the final decision.

But critics counter that councils are appointed instead of elected at struggling schools, and, with only one student representative, don’t have enough student voices. Additionally, not all councils have enough members to vote.

Located at 1147 N. Western Ave., Roberto Clemente sits on the border of Ukrainian Village and Humboldt Park. Many of the students live in Humboldt Park, said Marre, whose son was valedictorian for this year’s graduating class.

Marre said he voted in favor of removing the school’s two officers. While he thought the officers added value to the school, Roberto Clemente has made great strides in recent years toward a system of “restorative justice” rather than “retributive justice.”

For example, under a retributive justice model, students who get into a fight are punished and often suspended, forcing them to miss more school, Marre said.

With restorative justice, when students fight, the school responds by having a staffer sit down with that student to discuss the root issues. If suspension is warranted, it’s in-school, not out-of-school.

Administrators, teachers and staff have received recent training in restorative justice methods, Marre said.

“There’s no one size fits all,” he said. “The whole idea is to keep kids into schools. Help them solve their problems. Not bring in law enforcement. [Usually] it’s more of a social issue than a criminal justice issue. Let’s solve the social issue.”

The three members who voted to keep officers felt they were a valuable addition to the school, Marre said.

The other eight members felt having officers “unnecessarily adult-ifies” students and creates an “aura of them having done something wrong,” Marre said.

“Those two viewpoints need to be more fully aired before the LSC comes to any kind of decision,” he said.

If you want to submit feedback, you can call Roberto Clemente at 773-534-4000 and leave a message for Principal Fernando Mojica or Assistant Principals Amber Henderson or Brad Rossi. You may also email FSMojica@cps.edu, blrossi@cps.edu or asvaughn@cps.edu.

View a list of Local School Council members on Roberto Clemente’s website.

Earlier this week, Northside College Prep in North Park became the first CPS local school council to vote to remove SROs from campus, with 8 in favor, 0 opposed and 1 abstaining, Chalkbeat reported.  

RELATED: Prominent Chicago High School Votes Down School Police Program. Will Others Follow?

Chicago Public Schools will hold the first of a bi-weekly stakeholder discussion on Local School Councils at 4 p.m. Thursday.

View a map of all Chicago Public Schools Local School Councils — and their members — here.

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