PILSEN — Benito Juarez Community Academy voted to remove police officers from its Pilsen campus, becoming the second Chicago high school to do so.
The local school council approved removing school resource officers in a 7-1 vote Wednesday night. Northside College Prep’s council was the first to definitively vote officers out of its school last week.
The vote comes as part of a larger social movement protesting police violence, particularly toward Black communities. The activism has amplified efforts to eliminate school resource officers, even as city leaders and school officials have hesitated to do so.
At Benito Juarez, council members, students and staff said they want CPS to redirect funding for school officers to pay for more social workers, counselors, nurses and restorative justice programs.
Between incidents of non-Black students using racial slurs and recent allegations of inappropriate behavior involving Juarez staff members, council president Glenda Capoverde said there was “enough unresolved trauma” for the school to focus on.
Students want to “learn and thrive…without the fear of being arrested,” one student said.
Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th), who represents Pilsen, commended youth at the meeting “who are offering solutions to a broken system.” As a former educator, Sigcho-Lopez said he “wholeheartedly” believes cops do not belong in schools.
The youth have “more common sense” than “politicians and unelected board of education that is ignoring the vast majority of youth across the city… are demanding which is systemic structural change,” he said.
Sigcho-Lopez agreed money for police should be reinvested into mental health services and counselors not in “terrorizing our communities and making worse the school to prison pipeline that is failing our youth across the city.”
The Chicago Board of Education narrowly voted against removing officers from all public schools last month. The board will take another vote on whether to renew the district’s $33 million contract with police in August.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot and schools chief Janice Jackson chose not to make any unilateral decisions about the contract with Chicago police, instead leaving the decision to local school councils.
The district is requiring more than 70 schools are required to vote on the issue by Aug. 15.
Some schools, like Roberto Clemente Community Academy in Humboldt Park, have held advisory votes but are seeking more community input before making a final decision. Others have chosen to keep school officers in place.
Here’s more about what happened Wednesday.
Clemente Plans More Public Meetings
After a non-binding vote earlier this month to remove officers, Roberto Clemente’s school council now is planning two more community forums to review the issue.
The group is also sending out surveys to students and parents at the school, 1147 N. Western Ave.
The majority of people who spoke at the Wednesday meeting said they support eliminating school officers.
“Clemente is seen as a very violent place. I know Clemente is not like that. I feel like the legacy overshadows what it is today. We have an opportunity to change that legacy,” teacher Eduardo Martinez said.
“We have the staff, the community, the kids to make it work without police officers in our school. We have the data to back it up. … Clemente can be a leader.”
Many also questioned why the council was holding more meetings rather than sticking with the original vote.
But school leaders, including Principal Fernando Mojica, said it’s imperative to get broader community feedback before making a formal decision.
“The only reason we’re doing this is because we want to be transparent, as transparent as clean glass,” council member Judy Vazquez said.
Responding to criticism, Mojica said, “The purpose is not to just keep having votes. The LSC has already voted. We want to be able to engage stakeholders.”
“We are going to vote and make it official. I don’t know what’s wrong with listening and educating our community.”
Prosser Career Academy Delays Vote Until August
The council at Prosser Career Academy in Belmont Cragin tabled a vote on the issue Wednesday to gather more input from students.
The council will next meet at 10 a.m. Aug. 11.
Chalkbeat Chicago reporter Yana Kunichoff contributed to this report.
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