Chicago Public Schools One Step Closer To Prohibit Cops In Schools

By: May Man Published: May 24, 2024

Chicago Public Schools (CPS) took a significant step towards finalizing a new school safety policy on Thursday, following the Board of Education’s February decision to allow all district schools to remove uniformed Chicago Police Department (CPD) officers by the end of the school year.

The board approved a new “Whole School Safety Framework” offered by the district. However, a state bill that could override the district’s plans might also be voted on this week. Sponsored by Rep. Mary Gill, D-Chicago, HB5008 would allow high school Local School Councils (LSCs) to directly contract with CPD to hire school resource officers (SROs) through to February 2027.

Should Police Be Removed From Schools?

This conflict between state and local policies highlights the ongoing debate over whether the decision to remove police from schools should be made centrally or at the individual school level.

Two university police officers, one African American and one Caucasian, patrolling a campus walkway lined with trees and historic buildings

Source: UNCPolice/X

Under the district’s $10.3 million CPD contract, which expires in August, SROs are currently present in about a quarter of district high schools, where LSCs have opted to have one or two officers on duty during the school day.

End Of School Year Marks End Of ERO Programs

The new policy mandates the end of SRO programs districtwide at the end of the school year, while CPS will continue to partner with CPD to provide critical support to all schools.

View from behind of a diverse audience seated in a seminar hall, focused on a speaker in the distance

Source: Sam Balye/Unsplash

Chief of Safety and Security Jadine Chou stated on Thursday that CPD has committed to maintaining School Sergeants, who have long worked with the majority of the district’s over 600 schools that either never had SROs or had already removed them.

All SRO’s Removed

The decision to remove all SROs fulfils a 2020 district commitment to phase them out. Board members in February emphasized that a central decision was necessary to prevent ongoing disparities in school-based arrests.

A close-up of many empty school desks.

Source: Rubén Rodriguez/Unsplash

According to a 2023 Georgetown Law report, about 70 school districts nationwide have adopted policies to remove police from schools.

Focus Should Be In Areas That Promote Learning

Proponents argue that LSCs should continue to decide on SROs, as different schools have different needs.

A diverse group of young students sitting on the floor, looking attentively towards a teacher who is reading from a book

Source: CDC/Unsplash

Lynn Morton of Community Organizing and Family Issues (COFI), one of four community-based nonprofits partnering with CPS to reshape its safety policies, acknowledged that removing SROs makes some community members uneasy. Morton stated “Let’s keep in mind, all of us, that real discipline is about education. It’s about learning. So our dollars should be spent in areas that promote learning and education,”.

Holistic Approach To School Safety

The proposed policy builds on the “holistic” approach to school safety CPS adopted in 2020, which involved incorporating community groups and students in safety planning.

Children in elementary school work during class.

Source: CDC/Unsplash

This reform, initiated after racial justice protests in 2020, allowed LSCs to redirect SRO funds towards alternative strategies, such as hiring restorative justice coordinators.


What Does The Data Show?

Data released by the district that year showed that 73% of school-based arrests involved Black students, who made up only 36% of the student population.

Website code being seen through an artisitic lense.

Source: Markus Spiske/Unsplash

Calls to police remain disproportionately higher for students with disabilities, according to the board’s February resolution.


New Policy Requirements

The new policy requires every school to have functional indoor and outdoor security cameras and at least one security officer.

Two security cameras against a wall.

Scott Webb/Pexels

Additional officers will be allocated based on school population size and neighborhood crime rates. Schools may consider using metal detectors and must have emergency procedures in place, with drills conducted for students.


Part-Time Security Roles May Still Need To Be Filled By Sworn Police Officers

Historically, CPS required part-time security roles to be filled by sworn police officers—a provision that district officials said last June would be removed in a new bargaining agreement with Service Employees International Union Local 73.

Two police officers arrest a man in a green shirt and put him in handcuffs

Source: iStock

The district did not comment on whether this provision has been lifted in the agreement approved on Thursday with the union representing security guards and other support staff.


Physical, Emotional And Relational Safety

The district’s safety approach is based on physical, emotional, and relational safety and will be implemented in phases, Chou said at a recent board committee meeting. She continued “That starts with a baseline assessment … working with our community partners and our stakeholders, like parents and students, to make sure that we’re understanding their needs,”.

Overhead view of two female students studying together at a rustic wooden table, with books and a cold drink

Source: Alexis Brown/Unsplash

Later phases will establish school-level safety committees to develop and implement safety plans focused on building trusting relationships between students and staff, social-emotional learning, and non-exclusionary discipline by the 2028-29 school year. Mortan commented “Safety cannot be defined or driven by fear-based reactions,”.


Monthly Discussions Are Mandatory

Under the proposal, mandatory monthly discussions between administrators and student representatives will be held at high schools. Previously, only high schools could create comprehensive safety plans with student and community input, but the proposed policy extends this process to the entire district.

A group of co-workers pictured having a meeting at work

Source: Freepik

Director of Safety Operations Kylie Kosmacek stated last week that more than 9,000 responses to a public survey on school safety have shaped the new draft policy, which will be published for public comment. In June, COFI and CPS’s three other community-based partners—Broader Urban Involvement & Leadership Development Inc., Mikva Challenge, and Voices of Youth in Chicago Education—will host four community engagement sessions.


Prioritizing Student’s Safety

Edgar Nava, an Amundsen High School student and member of the Whole School Safety Steering Committee, shares their thoughts.

A student walking down an aisle in a library, flanked by shelves stocked with a multicolored array of books

Source: Redd F/Unsplash

“We are coming together to reimagine school safety to prioritize students’ social-emotional and physical safety and well-being in a safe environment that allows us to learn and thrive regardless of the neighborhood we live in,”