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CPS nixes photo ID requirement to attend board meetings after outcry

After Chicago Teachers Union and chairman of the city’s Latino Caucus blasted Chicago Public Schools Tuesday for making parents and other members of the public show a photo ID to attend Wednesday’s public meeting of the Chicago Board of Education, the district rescinded the rule.

The requirement for observing the monthly public meetings at 42 W. Madison — separate from the rules for those who want to address board members — was a new addition to the first page of the meeting’s agenda published Monday morning, though a CPS spokesman said it wasn’t a new rule.

“A photo ID is required for registration,” it read.

Noting that about 47 percent of CPS students are Hispanic, Latino caucus chair Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th) tweeted, “CPS had better rethink this new rule change that requires parents to have ID’s prior to speaking in a public forum. Chicago is a Welcoming City, let’s act like it!”

Reached by telephone, Villegas said he worried the rule would discourage undocumented families from having their say about their children’s education.

“This is something that doesn’t make sense. We should be welcoming people to make comments, not discouraging them,” he said.

The Chicago Teachers Union likened the requirement to “a GOP-Trump Administration tactic that has been used to disenfranchise Black voters and scare off undocumented residents.

“We have parents and advocates who come in to raise and report on critical specific issues with the Board each month — and now they are being ordered to sit down and shut up,” CTU vice president Stacy Davis Gates continued in a press release.

Tuesday night, after the outcry, CPS spokesman Michael Passman said “concerns from members of the community” convinced officials to reverse course. He also said no one had been turned away for lack of identification because of the rule, which had been in place “as a security measure.”

“It is crucial for the Board’s monthly public meetings to be open to all interested community members,” he said. “To ensure no barriers to participation exist, we are rescinding the photo ID requirement for tomorrow’s meeting and all future meetings.”The ID rule had surpassed what’s required by City Council and the County Board where members of the public need only pass through a metal detector to enter.

The state’s Open Meetings Act makes no mention of requirements to attend any meeting of a tax-funded public body such as a school board, saying only, “All meetings required by this Act to be public shall be held at specified times and places which are convenient and open to the public.”

The office of Attorney General Lisa Madigan, arbiter of the open meetings law, is already investigating a separate complaint from August about access to school board meetings. The office will be “looking at their meeting attendance policies and providing input,” spokeswoman Maura Possley said. That complaint was filed by Suzanne McBride, a Columbia College professor and part-time editor for the Chicago Sun-Times.