3 of 4 people arrested at CPS are Black even as arrests plummet

The data released Friday comes during a heated debate about the role of police officers in Chicago Public Schools.

SHARE 3 of 4 people arrested at CPS are Black even as arrests plummet

Chicago Vocational Career Academy High School saw the most arrests of any CPS school in 2018-19.

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

About three of every four people arrested at a Chicago Public Schools property over the past nine years have been Black, even as arrests have plummeted in that time to only a fraction of what they were in the 2011-2012 school year, new data released Friday by the district shows.

There were 1,000 daytime arrests on public school grounds in the last full academic year, 2018-19. That’s down significantly from 2012, when 3,485 arrests were made. Almost 500 arrests were made the past school year, which was shortened due to coronavirus closures.

More than 76% of those arrested in 2018-19 were African American, the data shows. That rate has largely remained steady over the past several years.

The report released by CPS says not all of those arrested were students. Some arrests included may have been entirely unrelated to school events or dealing with someone who has no connection to the school. It remains unclear how many students have been arrested at CPS over the years, officials said.

“In 2011-12, we were still under zero tolerance, meaning the policies in our student code of conduct really were not very restorative,” CPS’ chief of safety and security, Jadine Chou, said in an interview Firday. “And over the years we have completely turned that over where we are now using very progressive disciplinary policies that support keeping children in the classroom, keeping children in school, not exclusionary policies that suspend students or arrest students.

Chou said “we’ve made tremendous progress. We are seeing all the adults in the building starting to work together to sustain this direction, this journey that we’re taking. The data shows that it’s heading there. That is our goal, is to eliminate the school-to-prison pipeline.”

More than 63% of those arrested were male in 2018-19, CPS said. The average age was 15.5 after the district removed all arrests of people over 21 years old.

CPS said the data was provided by the Chicago Police Department, and arrests were located at a school address but did “not necessarily indicate the arrest was based on an incident that occurred at the school or connected to the school,” the report said. While the arrests include people 21 or younger, that “does not necessarily indicate that the individual arrested was an active student or has a connection to the school,” the report said.

The arrests took place during the academic year between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., seven days a week.

The school where the most arrests happened this past shortened academic year was Chicago Vocational High School in the Stony Island Park neighborhood on the South Side. There were 65 arrests this year.

The release came as Local School Councils finished voting on whether to keep officers at their schools. Over the past few weeks, 17 of 72 schools in the SRO program decided to remove their cops. The majority of LSCs that voted, including at Chicago Vocational, opted to keep them in place.

The arrest numbers add another layer to a complex debate on policing in public schools that has grown into one of the most pressing issues at CPS. Protests against the presence of officers in schools grew last year when the district agreed to a $33 million contract with the Chicago Police Department — which has since been reduced to $15 million for the upcoming year — and again increased during social justice protests this summer.

This is the first time arrest records at CPS have been made public despite the August 2019 agreement with the Chicago Police Department mandating daily reports be kept on crimes and arrests at CPS schools and a monthly report be sent from CPD to CPS detailing those incidents.

The data has been requested by several news outlets, including the Chicago Sun-Times, for months.

Chou admitted at a City Council hearing last month that the district doesn’t know how many students are arrested in its buildings.

“That’s definitely something we have to do a better job of understanding,” she said said, drawing Ald. Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez (33rd) to say “this seems like a lot of critical data that is missing.”

The city’s Board of Education chose by a narrow margin in June not to cancel its contract with the CPD. The board again faces a monumental vote later this month on whether to renew the agreement that expires at the end of August.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and CPS administrators have pushed for the contract to remain in place, arguing each school should decide on its own whether to keep its officers, passing the decision to LSCs.

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