HUMBOLDT PARK — After a non-binding vote and two community forums, members of Roberto Clemente Community Academy’s local school council has formally removed school officers from campus.
Protesters have demanded Chicago Public Schools cut ties with the Chicago Police Department — as has happened in Minneapolis — and remove officers from schools as part of a larger movement against police violence.
City and district leaders have resisted taking widespread action, instead urging local school councils to make their own decisions. Most schools already have opted to retain school police while other councils will vote in the next couple of weeks.
At Clemente, the vote came after weeks of discussion among council members, teachers, parents, students and community members.
The council voted 8-3 earlier this month in favor of removing school officers from campus. But that vote was “advisory” and non-binding. The council then held two community forums to get more feedback.
Many questioned why the council was holding more meetings rather than sticking with the original vote. But council members, including Principal Fernando Mojica, insisted it was important to hear from the broader community before taking a formal vote.
Monday’s meeting was the last opportunity for teachers, parents, students and community members to make their case. The majority of those who spoke during the meeting said they support eliminating school resource officers.
“Police in schools is counter-productive,” parent Tressa Greer said. “It doesn’t create a safe space for our Black and Brown children and many of them are already traumatized. … Police officers should not be policing our children, but policing criminals.”
David Ramirez, a teacher at Clemente, said his students have overwhelmingly said they don’t feel comfortable with police officers on campus.
“We’ve had these meetings and we’ve gone through all of the data showing how policing disproportionately affects Black students,” Ramirez said. “We’re all going through a very traumatic year. We’re in the middle of a pandemic. The last thing our kids need is more policing.”
After the vote, Principal Mojica said there is more work to be done to ensure students are safe on campus and staff are able to resolve conflicts without police. He did not offer specifics.
Ramirez and others said Clemente needs more social workers, counselors and nurses.
“There is no guarantee we’re going to get more counselors and nurses and it’s up to us to advocate for that,” council member Daniel Marre said.
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.
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