GAGE PARK — Police officers will remain at Solorio Academy High School in Gage Park after its local school council voted 7–1 Friday morning to keep officers on campus .
Solorio, 5400 S. St. Louis Ave., joins a growing list of Chicago high schools that have opted in recent weeks to keep school resource officers in place.
Principal Victor Iturralde told council members that if they eliminated the program, they would not be able to bring it back later in the year. The committee would only be able to revisit the topic if the school officers program was retained, Iturralde said.
“It can be removed at a future date, but if it’s removed now it can’t be reinstated in the future,” he said.
Chicago Public Schools leaders previously have said regardless of a vote, the district’s policy is to allow local school councils to revisit the issue at any time.
Solorio officials said a survey of 157 students showed the majority were in favor of keeping resource officers. Teachers and staff were split on keeping them. Some at the meeting said the survey size was far too small to accurately reflect students’ perspectives on the issue.
The majority of people commenting at Friday’s meeting favored removing officers.
Student Esmeralda De La Garza said officers did not make students safer. De La Garza called for funds to go towards mental health services, counselors, social workers and teachers who are better trained on restorative justice than police officers.
“What Solorio doesn’t need is an overpaid desk duty cop that makes more money annually printing [tardy slips] than teachers who work so hard for us,” De La Garza said. “Those funds deserve to be allocated to the children on services that keep us healthy and safe.”
One council member said she supported the removal of officer if funds would be re-allocated to the school for other needs, but said schools do not have the authority to redirect that funding.
English teacher Samson Widerman favored eliminating police officers, saying while teachers are trained and retrained to deescalate and provide cultural responsive assistance to students, resource officers aren’t.
“Many of us go above and beyond, the same is not true of CPD officers. They are placed in schools…the training that officers get is not anywhere as broad that we get as teachers, counselors and social workers,” Widerman said.
Chicago’s school board narrowly voted last month not to remove police officers from all public schools. The board is expected to vote on whether to renew its $33 million contract with the Chicago Police Department on Aug. 26.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot and schools Chief Janice Jackson declined to make any sweeping decisions about resource officers, instead mandating local school councils to make the final call.
Just four schools — Roberto Clemente High School, Benito Juarez Community Academy, Northside College Prep and Hancock Academy — have voted to remove their officers from campus so far.
The rest of Chicago’s 70-plus schools with a police presence have until next week to make a final decision.
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