ALBANY PARK — Theodore Roosevelt High School’s local school council voted Tuesday morning to eliminate school resource officers.
The 6-3 decision came ahead of a Friday deadline requiring councils across Chicago public high schools to decide whether to keep or oust police officers from their campuses. Roosevelt joins at least six other high schools, including Lane Tech College Prep, that have opted to eliminate officers.
Roosevelt students, teachers, parents and community members had split opinions on the issue. The majority of people who spoke at a town hall favored removing in-school police, while the majority of those responding to an in-house survey said they wanted to keep officers.
Principal Daniel Kramer said he struggled with his decision and initially leaned toward keeping school resource officers because he has seen how they protect students with their outreach, like preventing area drug dealers from targeting students.
But he changed his position after learning more about how police can affect the school experience for students of color. Whatever issues armed police currently handle instead should be addressed by faculty and staff because the trauma cops can cause students far outweigh any benefits, Kramer said.
“When I look at the students who have been arrested at the high school they are disproportionately African American students. African American female students. That really shows we have work to do,” he said.
Assistant principal Juliet Lauro-Geruso also said school police have good relationships with students but she supported keeping officers. Roosevelt’s two resource officers provide a variety of services like wellness checks at students’ homes when they are absent.
“I know what they do for our students. Some students will only respond to them and won’t talk to our staff,” Lauro-Geruso said.
Sharyzid Baldoky, a council member and parent at the school, said the current in-school officers rarely make an effort to talk to parents and she hasn’t seen them try to break up fights at the school.
“I don’t know if they help prevent drugs being sold to our students but that should be their job anyways right? Inside a school I have no idea what they’re doing,” Baldoky said, in Spanish.
Ruby Ruiz, who graduated from Roosevelt in 2018, also said she and her peers did not have any kind of relationship with in-school police.
“We had relationships with our security guards but not our police officers,” Ruiz said. “And I don’t know of any student who would want a home visit from police, especially if they are undocumented.”
“You need to think about what is actually going to be a benefit to students and stop just thinking about what is convenient for you. “
Police officers in schools has become a focal point in national demonstrations protesting police violence in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis. Several large cities, including Minneapolis, have since moved to eliminate police presence in public schools.
On Monday, CPS 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 COVID-19 dramatically changing the landscape for schools alongside an increased spotlight on the cost of school policing.
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