Will cops patrol your school? Local councils will have final say, CPS says

Chicago Public Schools’ chief safety and security officer announced that the future of the controversial program will be in the hands of the elected leadership at each school.

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Chicago Public Schools Chief of Safety and Security speaks at a public meeting Wednesday at Eckhart Park in Noble Square.

Chicago Public Schools Chief Safety and Security Officer Jadine Chou speaks at a public meeting Wednesday at Eckhart Park in Noble Square.

Matthew Hendrickson/Sun-Times

Local school councils will have the final say on whether Chicago police officers will work at their schools, a district official said.

Chief Safety and Security officer Jadine Chou made the announcement Wednesday night during a public meeting led by Chicago police to discuss the future role and responsibilities of school resource officers. The role of police in schools has come under fire as some question whether the schools would be better served with more social workers and support staff instead.

“We are not here to say all schools need to have school resource officers,” Chou said. “We know that there’s no one-size-fits-all [approach].

Chou encouraged those at the meeting “to reach out to your local school councils.”

Local school councils are made up of parents, community members, educators and parents, who are both elected by the community and appointed by CPS.

A spokeswoman for CPS said individual councils will take the issue up before the start of the upcoming school year in early September, but did not provide additional information.

Jadine Chou, chief safety and security officer for Chicago Public Schools, listens in during a discussion about school resources officers led by Chicago police Wednesday at Eckhart Park in Noble Square.

Jadine Chou, chief safety and security officer for Chicago Public Schools, listens in during a discussion about school resources officers led by Chicago police Wednesday at Eckhart Park in Noble Square.

Matthew Hendrickson/Sun-Times

Wednesday’s meeting, held at the Eckhart Park Fieldhouse in Noble Square, is part of a public-input process that was recommended by the city’s Office of the Inspector General after a report last year detailed a concerning lack of oversight by police and CPS for the officers.

Months after the report was released, two officers were removed from Marshall High School when a video showed them pulling a 16-year-old student down a flight of stairs and repeatedly shocking her with a stun gun.

Several dozen community members were broken up Wednesday evening into small groups to discuss restorative justice practices, police oversight and accountability and mental health awareness by officers.

Officers took notes as community members pushed them to coordinate better with social workers and administrators at schools. Others told officers police need to be more aware of how they interact with marginalized groups, like LGBTQ youth, who may feel less comfortable coming forward with a problem to an officer, and with special needs students.

Notes taken during a community meeting Wednesday at Eckhart Park between the community and Chicago police.

Notes taken during a community meeting Wednesday at Eckhart Park between the community and Chicago police.

Matthew Hendrickson/Sun-Times

Despite a promise by police that officers facilitating the discussions would “dig deep,” current and former CPS students, parents and community members said they felt the two-hour meeting was too short to provide much substance — echoing the concerns of community groups who participated in previous invite-only meetings with police.

“It got sort of sidetracked,” said a CPS student who declined to give her name. “It felt like the conversations had been spun from the beginning.”

The student, who said she doesn’t support having police in the city’s public schools, said the meeting did little to change her mind.

Still, many others said they appreciated the department’s outreach efforts and hoped it was the start of a longer conversation.

Cata Truss, the wife of newly appointed school board member Dwayne Truss, said she found the group discussion format helpful and hoped the police department would continue to replicate them with other issues concerning community policing.

“I would like to see them do this all the time,” said Truss, of Austin.

The department plans to hold three additional public meetings about police in schools with the next scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday at Hamilton Park, 513 W. 72nd St.

The Chicago Teachers Union signaled that the union backed the move to hand the decision to the councils but said the members of the council need the authority to use the funding for other critical needs.

“We support the basic tenets of democracy embedded in the LSC endeavor,” spokesperson Chris Geovanis said. “ ... Giving LSCs authority to decide whether or not [school resource officers] are assigned to a school is important, and it must be accompanied by allowing LSCs to reallocate those funds to other critical needs, including restorative justice coordinators, social workers and other vital frontline staff who can provide students who confront high levels of trauma with the supports and preventive assistance children need.”

Officer Vanessa Westley, of CPD’s Office of Restorative Justice, said the conversations would also continue after the school year begins.

“This is not a one-hit-wonder,” Westley promised.

Eve Stiles listens during a discussion of how school resource officers can better interact with marginalized groups, like LGBTQ and special needs students, at the Chicago Public Schools they are assigned to at a community meeting Wednesday at Eckhart Park

Eve Stiles, a Chicago Public Schools graduate, listens during a discussion of how school resource officers can better interact with marginalized groups, like LGBTQ and special needs students, at a community meeting Wednesday at Eckhart Park in Noble Square.

Matthew Hendrickson/Sun-Times

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