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3 aldermen push to kick cops out of schools, plan to introduce ordinance at council meeting this week

Mayor Lori Lightfoot earlier this month was adamant against a blanket removal of officers from schools and said she wouldn’t consider ending the contract between CPD and CPS.

Protesters hold a banner that says “Fund Black Futures” on East 63rd Street in Woodlawn in a June demonstration against police officers in schools.
Protestors hold a banner that reads “Fund Black Futures” on East 63rd Street in Woodlawn, Chicago, Sunday June 14, 2020, in a demonstration against police officers in schools.
Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Three aldermen are proposing the termination of a $33 million contract between the Chicago Police Department and Chicago Public Schools after two weeks of widespread protests have rejuvenated efforts to remove officers from schools.

The aldermen plan to introduce an ordinance at Wednesday’s City Council meeting that would permanently end the relationship between the police department and public school system and prevent another contract from being signed.

But the proposal faces a tall task: convincing Mayor Lori Lightfoot, whose support will likely be necessary for the ordinance to pass. The mayor’s background includes a stint as the Police Board president, and earlier this month, in the face of protests, she opposed the removal of cops from schools.

Activists across the country have demanded police-free schools for years, pointing to detrimental impacts on students of color whose behavior in school is criminalized and leads to a “school-to-prison pipeline,” in which in-school incidents lead directly to criminal charges and jail.

Social injustice demonstrations in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd have prompted a closer look at the police presence in American schools, and districts in Minneapolis and Denver have since voted to kick out their police officers. Seattle and Oakland have also followed through with similar measures.

Ald. Rod Sawyer (6th), Ald Jeanette Taylor (20th) and Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) are joining the calls for Chicago to do the same.

“The trauma and harm that was done by this practice can never be erased,” Taylor said in a statement. “The money we spend on CPD in CPS can be used for a nurse, counselor, and real restorative justice programs that our students will need once returning to school.”

The ordinance, introduced as part of a series of actions being taken by Black and Brown students this week to bring attention to the cause, reads in part: “The presence of Chicago police inside of schools creates dangerous conditions for students that have led to the criminalization, mass incarceration, harassment, death, and heinous use of force against Brown and predominantly Black students.”

Until this school year, there hadn’t been a uniform set of rules for cops in schools. CPS and CPD held a series of community input sessions last year to establish guidelines for the program in an attempt to allay concerns. Officers last summer also got specific training on working with students and in a school setting, which at the time was the first such training in at least a decade, officials said.

CPS has left the choice to remove officers up to each individual Local School Council, an elected body of parents, teachers and community members.

Lightfoot earlier this month was adamant against a blanket removal of officers from schools and said she wouldn’t consider ending the contract between CPD and CPS.

“Unfortunately, we need security in our schools,” the mayor said June 5. “We spent a lot of time a year ago working through challenges that we have seen with police officers in schools. I think we’ve got a very good track record this school year making sure that CPS is in control — that officers are there for a limited purpose. That CPS personnel will deal with ... basic issues regarding students.”

CPS and CPD officials couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.