BELMONT CRAGIN — Steinmetz College Prep’s local school council unanimously voted Wednesday to keep in-school police officers on campus.
Council members made the 8-0 decision ahead of the district’s Friday deadline. The district is requiring dozens of local school councils to decide whether to keep or eject school resource officers in response to continued calls for police reform that started with the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Steinmetz conducted numerous surveys on the issue, which showed an overwhelming number of parents, teachers and students said they want to keep school resources officers on campus.
But survey participation was low; one survey drew fewer than 75 responses. The Belmont Cragin high school at 3030 N. Mobile Ave. enrolls more than 1,150 students, according to district data.
Council members acknowledged survey participation was low but said the results accurately reflect the majority opinions of the school community. They said in talking with Steinmetz families and staffers the answer was clear.
“I have spoken to many people in this community and they’re in favor of keeping the police officers at the school because they feel it’s more safe for them, and for the kids,” council member Jose Quiles said. “We have the data, but we also have spoken to people in the community.”
Council member Cornell Davis said school resource officers are connecting with Steinmetz students and guiding them every day, teaching them about “right and wrong and how to make better decisions.”
“It’s not even about law enforcement,” Davis said. “It’s about. … connecting with our community as a whole.”
Council member Cassandra Hernandez said while she supports keeping officers on campus for the same reasons as her fellow members, she wants to see more counselors, mental health professionals in the school.
Steinmetz’s council currently does not have a student representative and no students spoke during Wednesday’s meeting.
The majority of Chicago public high schools have opted to keep officers in place. Only a handful of schools, including Roberto Clemente Community Academy in Humboldt Park and Lane Tech in North Center, have voted to remove school police officers.
In response to growing calls to remove police from schools, district and city officials chose not to make a unilateral move and instead left individual school councils to decide for themselves.
On Monday, 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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