Little Village Lawndale High School campus is located at 3120 S. Kostner Ave. Credit: Google Maps

LITTLE VILLAGE — Despite not having enough members for an official vote, local school councils at Little Village Lawndale High School, a campus that houses four separate high schools, narrowly voted to recommend removing police from campus.

In an 11-9 split, the school council members’ non-binding vote Tuesday afternoon will serve merely as a suggestion for what the campus should do. The vote is non-binding because none of the four local school councils had a quorum, which is required under CPS rules.

Instead, principals and the network chief will be tasked with deciding whether to keep cops on campus, according to CPS. As part of the unofficial vote Tuesday, all four Little Village principals recommended keeping resource officers at the campus.

The Little Village Lawndale High School houses four schools: World Language High School, Social Justice High School, Multicultural Arts and Infinity: Math, Science and Technology High Schools. About 1,300 students attends schools on the campus, 3120 S. Kostner Ave.

Social Justice members voted 4-2 to remove officers. Infinity: Math, Science and Technology HS voted 4-2 to remove officers. Multicultural Arts’ two members voted to keep officers. World Language council members were split; three voted to keep officers, three voted to remove them.

Following the roll call vote, World Language Principal Brian Rogers explained community feedback, presentations and the result of the vote would be presented to the network chief who would make the decision on whether to keep or remove officers from campus.

Chicago Public School officials did not answer questions about the meeting.

During the meeting, school officials presented survey responses from staff, students, parents and community partners, some of which called on keeping resource officers. However, some local school council members said the response rate of the survey was too low to make any definitive determination on whether the community wanted to keep or remove officers.

Some students, parents, teachers and alumni called for the removal of officers and for the district to redirect those funds to hire more social workers and counselors instead.

There is no greater issue in Little Village than public safety, Ald. Michael Rodriguez (22nd) said, but it’s time to “rethink what it means to create a safe environment for our children.”

Rodriguez said the school-to-prison pipeline is “serious.” 

“What does it say to our children when we say we need police officers in our schools to keep them safe? What does it say to them when we prioritize paying for police in our schools, rather then social workers?” Rodriguez said. “We need to restore our young peoples faith in society. And hinting to them they are inherently criminal and need police presence does harm to them.”

Richard Christian, head of security at the school, said resource officers rarely interacted with students.  Arrests on campus only happen when a parent or school leader wants to press charges for battery after a student has hit another student, he said.

A few students, including a 2020 World Language alum, said school resource officers are needed on campus. He said neighborhood gangs were deterred from coming to the school by having officers on campus. 

Another student described witnessing a friend thrown against the wall by a school resource officer for failing to “pull up his pants.” He didn’t do anything wrong, the student said.

When she attempted to intervene to say her friend did nothing wrong, the officer said: “Shut up or your next,” she recalled. She told school leaders and said she was traumatized by witnessing that brutality. 

A Farragut High School school counselor said she was tired of seeing her students “berated, excluded, arrested in front of her and have to process that with them over, and over, and over again.”

Two teachers spoke about witnessing students being handcuffed by resources officers for insignificant issues and not being able to intervene. One teacher said staff and social workers were trained to deescalate situations, while resources officers aren’t.

In order to keep officers on campus, a teacher and Social Justice High School school council member said he wanted to see evidence proving the presence officers actually made schools safer and made students feel safe and able to learn.

Social Justice High School Assistant Principal Dennis Bulmer, a former police officer and resource officer, said he was a firm believer in “relationship building.”

“Just like in every profession, there are a few bad apples,” Bulmer said.

Read all of Block Club’s coverage on school resource officers here.

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Pilsen, Little Village and West Loop reporterrnrnmauricio@blockclubchi.orgnnPilsen, Little Village and West Loop Twitter @MauricioPena