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Hancock College Prep Votes Out Police, Becoming 4th CPS School To Remove Cops On Campus

In a 6-4 vote, the school council voted against keeping officers at the Southwest Side school after hearing from teachers and parents.

Hancock High School votes to remove officers from the Southwest Side on Thursday night.
Hancock High School/ Facebook
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WEST ELSDON — Hancock College Prep High School voted to remove police officers from its West Elsdon campus, becoming the fourth Chicago high school to do so.

Local school council members voted 6-4 against keeping officers at the Southwest Side school Thursday night. Hancock High School joins Northside College Prep in North Park, Benito Juarez Community Academy in Pilsen and Roberto Clemente Community Academy in Humboldt Park, which all voted to oust officers from their schools last month. 

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 have yet to vote.

During Thursday’s virtual meeting, teachers, students and Hancock Dean Mildred Garcia called for the school to oust its officers.

They want the funding to be used for more social workers, counselors, nurses and restorative justice practitioners instead, but schools who vote to remove police will not be able to use the funds for other purposes.

Sarah Baranoff, a 15-year teacher, said she never needed police in her classroom and thought they were a danger to her students.

“What they’ve needed more than anything is social work, not police,” Baranoff said.

In reflecting on the school’s commitment to racial equity, many teachers said the school needed to walk the walk by removing resource officers. Teacher Maura Nugent said school resource officers are “antithetical” to that commitment.

“Hancock students are not criminals,” Nugent said. “They are leaders and scholars.” 

Teacher Carolina Gonzalez said the Chicago Police Department failed to meet deadlines to revise policies when dealing with young people as part of the consent decree stemming from the U.S. Department of Justice investigation into the Police Department.

The failure to make changes or provide a timeline puts into question the department’s ability and “willingness … in good faith to make the reforms necessary to ensure safe interactions with our students,” Gonzalez said.

Less than 90 students and parents responded to surveys from the school, with a slight majority voting to keep officers on campus. Teachers said only 25 students responded to the survey, too small of a sample to accurately reflect the opinions of 1,000 students on campus.

Meanwhile, a majority of surveyed Hancock teachers said they wanted cops removed.

“The data is clear. Teachers do not want an SRO in the building,” said Ray Salazar, a Hancock teacher who lives in the community and whose son also attends the school.

Ahead of the vote, teacher representative Froy Jimenez, who voted to remove officers, said the school’s local school council could not make a “sound decision” without having a student representative voting. Jimenez asked for the council to reconvene the issue in October to ensure students have a voice on the issue.

While a majority of speakers favored the removal of cops from the school, Janine Brzezicki, a parent representative and vice chair of the local school council, said she believed “the Chicago Police Department has been nothing but an asset to this school” and the school system.

She said all members who planned to vote in favor of removing police would be “put on notice” that they would  “each be held liable” if anything were to happen at the school.

Another parent, Sandra Diaz, also called for members to vote in favor of keeping cops on campus for parents’ peace of mind.

Hancock students Crystal Campos and Mayra Gutierrez said the two current officers at the school have amassed more than 50 complaints ranging from illegal search to verbal abuse and false arrests.

Campos said the base salary of $90,000 for resource officers could be better used.

“I have no other option but to hold on to hope that [officers] will be removed not just for my sake but for the sake of so many young people that go to CPS … that are already criminalized at CPS every day,” Campos 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.

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

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