BELMONT CRAGIN — Prosser Career Academy’s local school council voted 5-2 on Tuesday in favor of keeping in-school police officers on the Northwest Side campus.
The Belmont Cragin high school at 2148 N. Long Ave. is the latest Chicago public school to retain its school resource officers: The vast majority of Chicago’s public high schools also have chosen to keep officers in place.
“We have to focus on what we think is best for our students right now,” said council member Clemmie Ellis, who voted to keep officers. “I think right now, it’s not so much politics that’s best for them.”
The role of police in Chicago Public Schools has become a hotly debated issue in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. In recent weeks, several large cities, including Minneapolis, have moved to eliminate police presence in public schools.
More than 70 Chicago public schools must decide by the end of this week whether to keep school resource officers. City and district leaders have resisted taking widespread action, instead urging local school councils to make their own decisions.
Prosser administrators surveyed parents, teachers and students on the matter ahead of a Friday deadline imposed by the district. The administrators said the response split 60-40 in favor of keeping officers in place, though the student breakdown was more evenly divided.
Cassandra Gamez, an incoming senior at Prosser, said she’s talked to many of her peers about the role of police officers on campus and many of them feel “that the presence of officers disturbs the peace in a way.”
“They felt threatened by police,” Gamez said. “It’s already enough to have security passing by in the halls, but it’s even more to have police walking around.”
Council member Kassandra Tsitsopoulos, one of two who voted to oust offices, said eliminating school police would be a step toward addressing “racist policy.”
“We’re never going to get 100 percent on board, but sometimes policy must change for peoples’ fears to subside,” Tsitsopoulos said. “If we had waited for every man in this country to give women the right to vote, we would’ve never had the vote to vote.’
This week, the district announced plans to cut its school police program by more than half in the next fiscal year by removing payment for officers on days they are not serving in schools, and no longer paying for mobile patrol officers.
The budget proposal — part of a broader $8.4 billion spending plan unveiled Monday by the district — is the first indication of how the district will modify its school police contract for next year, with coronavirus dramatically changing the landscape for schools alongside an increased spotlight on the cost of school policing.
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