WOODLAWN — The two school resource officers at Hyde Park Academy High School will remain after the school’s council voted Monday to keep police on campus.
The majority of the Hyde Park Academy local school council voted for a second year to keep police in the South Side high school, 6220 S. Stony Island Ave.
Seven council members voted to keep both officers, while two members voted to keep one officer and reinvest the funds from the other to hire a “dean of culture and climate” — an administrator who would have specialized in restorative justice.
“It’s better to have [officers] and don’t need them, than to need them and don’t have” them, said community representative Sheila Scott, who voted to keep both officers. “In this day and time, we just can’t risk staff, children, nobody — we’ve got to be Johnny on the spot.”
Two members voted to remove both officers in favor of hiring a dean of culture and climate, as well as another staffer focused on restorative justice, violence interruption or behavioral health.
The council’s vote came despite a campaign from current and former students, as well as community organizers with Southside Together Organizing for Power, to remove both officers and reinvest the funds.
Chicago Public Schools committed up to $85,000 to Hyde Park Academy toward hiring a dean of culture and climate if the council voted to remove one officer, Principal Antonio Ross said ahead of Monday’s vote. Ross voted to keep one officer on campus.
The district later confirmed the offer of $85,000 would apply to each removed officer, for up to $170,000 in total toward staffers trained in restorative justice, community representative Maira Khwaja said before voting to remove both officers.
But most council members weren’t swayed, with several saying the officers are crucial to ensuring safety and decreasing fights and other violence at the school.
The school resource officers “are part of our community, and we have two dynamic people that are already in the building” who work in restorative justice, council staff representative Katharine Braggs said.
A survey of the more than 700 students at Hyde Park Academy garnered just 74 responses. More than 40 percent of participating students had no opinion on the school resource officers, while 34 percent felt unsafe and nervous and 23 percent felt safe and protected.
“As more of a to-myself, introvert student — and I don’t deal with police on the regular inside or outside school — for me to still be uncomfortable around the police should say a lot [about] how other students would feel,” said Aniah Pore, rising senior and student representative. Pore voted to keep one officer on campus.
An overwhelming majority of students have no interaction with Hyde Park Academy’s in-school police officers “other than ‘hi’ and ‘bye’ and walking past” them, Ross said.
Nearly half of the 37 parents who responded to the survey said they felt safe with the police officers, as did about 60 percent of teachers and staff. The number of faculty respondents was not given at the meeting.
Hyde Park Academy is one of dozens of Chicago public schools to vote on the future of its school resource officers ahead of the 2021-22 school year.
The round of votes follows a similar debate last summer, when the district left the councils of 70-plus schools to decide whether to keep on-campus officers amid outrage over police brutality. Most schools, including Hyde Park Academy, voted to keep their officers last year.
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