Holding aloft placards that read, “Police-free schools” and “Our schools are not jails,” a group of about 50 protesters rallied outside Chicago Public Schools headquarters downtown Tuesday morning.
“Police officers are not qualified to help students in the way we need,” said Daniel Davenport, a recent CPS graduate and a South Side activist. “We need people in our schools that we can trust to talk to about our situations. Arresting students is not the answer.”
Instead, the protesters said the money saved by not having police in schools should be spent on training existing staff or hiring others who are better able to counsel kids navigating communities engulfed in street violence.
“Schools do not need police involvement and police support,” said Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th). “We thank them for their service, but let’s be honest — if we need police, we’ll call 911.”
The rally comes as activists across the nation call for defunding police departments in the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
The protesters here look like they’ll have their work cut out for them.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot said last week she understands community concerns, but she doesn’t favor removing officers from schools.
“Unfortunately, we need security in our schools. 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,” Lightfoot said.
Ald. Michael Scott Jr. (24th) said it might be possible to remove police officers from some public schools but not all of them.
“There’s still a need in these really hard-hit neighborhoods to make sure that the folks inside the school — not just the students, but the teachers — are safe,” said Scott, chairman of the City Council’s Education Committee.
“There are things that happen in these schools that require some kind of law enforcement.”