NORTH CENTER — The advisory council at Lane Tech College Prep is meeting this week to decide when to take a vote on getting rid of in-school police officers.
Lane’s local school council is hosting a special meeting Tuesday, according to emails obtained by Block Club. Emily Haite, chairperson of Lane council, said one of the agenda items will be to set a date for a vote on keeping cops in schools, according to the email.
Messages left with Lane council members were not immediately returned. Alum Ugo Okere, who launched a petition over the weekend in support of removing officers, said organizers are calling for the Lane council to vote before the end of the month.
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.
But Chicago so far has resisted taking broad action. The CPS board voted in June in favor of keeping Chicago police officers in city schools, though the vote split 4-3.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who has said she does not plan to remove officers from schools, said it’s up to local school councils to make the final call, prompting the district to require votes at more than 70 schools by August 15.
Northside College Prep in North Park voted to remove officers earlier this month. In Humboldt Park, Roberto Clemente Community Academy‘s council said they want to do the same, but wanted community input first.
Okere, a 2014 graduate, launched the petition Saturday. By Monday it had over 1,461 signatures from alumni, current students and parents.
Okere, a former aldermanic candidate for the 40th Ward, told Block Club that as a Black person he’s never felt safe around police and when he attended Lane he always felt like a possible target of harassment, he said.
“I can’t imagine the anxiety that Black students at Lane Tech are dealing with now with an even worse incarceration system and countless filmed deaths of black bodies at the hands of police,” he said.
Jolie Mahr, a Lane student entering her senior year this fall, said she doesn’t “feel any safer with armed grown men there that are supposed to protect us.” If anything, the officers’ presence is more traumatizing, she said.
“After the Parkland school shooting, a friend of mine had a panic attack when she saw the cops walking around the schools with their guns,” Mahr said. “Having grown men open carry in a school is kind of an extreme thing to have be normal in a school building. I don’t see the need for them or have ever felt safer because of them.”
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.
Emma González, a 2012 Lane graduate, now works within CPS as a sexual violence prevention educator. She said she signed the petition because students tell her they don’t feel safe with police in schools, and her work shows that police presence often discourages young people from reporting instances of harm.
She also worries about school resource officers who have been accused of misconduct, she said.
“The call to remove (officers) is a call to reinvest in our community and create a safer learning environment for all students,” González said. “At Lane Tech, we were taught to remember the honor of Lane. That honor today looks like centering the students and their voices as they know their safety and educational needs.”
Okere said he wants the council to understand the urgency of the request and he hopes they will act quickly.
“Just as those who have been killed at the hands of the police demand expedient justice, the constituency of Lane Tech demands an expedient vote on getting cops out of school,” he said.
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