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Hyde Park, Woodlawn, South Shore

Hyde Park Academy Changes Course; Will Keep 1 Campus Police Officer But Replace Other With New Staff Member

Principal Antonio Ross said the school is positioned well to go to one officer next year and have a staffer trained in restorative justice support different initiatives around the school.

Hyde Park Academy High School, 6220 S. Stony Island Ave.
Maxwell Evans/Block Club Chicago
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WOODLAWN — Hyde Park Academy High School will keep one of its school resource officers and replace its other with a “dean of culture and climate,” marking a shift from the local school council’s vote last week.

The council voted unanimously Thursday to remove one campus police officer and reinvest district funds to hire a “dynamic” dean trained in restorative justice, principal Antonio Ross said.

The new staffer will “support all the different initiatives we have going here at Hyde Park,” Ross said.

Seven of 11 council members voted last Monday to keep both officers, but Ross urged members to reconsider and support the one-officer plan ahead of Thursday’s vote.

“I really do think we need” the dean of culture and climate, he said. “I think that we’re positioned well to go to one [officer] next year, and have this person support different initiatives around the school.”

Chicago Public Schools committed up to $85,000 toward hiring the new staff member if the council voted to remove one officer, he said at the prior meeting.

Ross was one of two council members who voted to keep one officer at last week’s meeting, along with student representative and rising senior Aniah Pore.

The groups Southside Together Organizing for Power and Not Me We, which advocated for replacing both officers with staff trained in restorative justice, celebrated the council’s about-face and vowed Friday to continue their campaign to find “alternatives to police work” at Hyde Park Academy.

“This step is a significant victory for our youth-led campaign which has been pushing to remove all police from the school and reinvest in restorative justice alternatives,” campaign organizers said in a joint statement. “We learned a lot from this experience: we built relationships with students, teachers, parents and community; we got a better understanding of why some teachers, staff and parents support the police in the school; and through this work our youth developed their leadership.”

Members of the public — including Block Club and other reporters — were removed from Thursday’s virtual meeting after it was interrupted by loud noises, cursing and several virtual-reality Kermit the Frogs.

Hyde Park Herald reporter Morley Musick provided Block Club with a recording of the meeting.

Hyde Park Academy’s local school council meetings will return in person for the upcoming school year, though the school may maintain a virtual element, Ross said.

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