A new round of Local School Council voting on whether to remove uniformed police officers from Chicago Public Schools kicked off this week, with Jones College Prep’s representative body opting to remove both its cops next fall.
The Loop school’s move away from the School Resource Officer program was approved with nine votes in favor and two abstentions, a year after the Jones LSC voted seven to five to keep its cops.
For Jones and the other 54 schools that decided last summer to retain their officers, this year’s votes offer the opportunity to replace the reliance on police with new student supports.
Responding to widespread criticism that schools last year had no alternative resources to choose from, CPS partnered with community groups over the winter to create a set of recommendations for schools to develop new district-funded safety plans. Each school was tasked with forming a Whole School Safety Committee to come up with its alternatives to police and presenting that plan to the LSC.
“The fact that right now at Jones we have nine security officers, we have two SROs, and we don’t have a full-time social worker ... that really says something about the priorities of mental health,” Cassie Cresswell, chair of the Jones LSC, said at a meeting Thursday.
The LSC presented survey results showing 82% of student respondents didn’t feel they needed an officer in school to feel safe and just over half of teachers didn’t want cops in the building. About 57% of parent respondents said they believed their kids would feel safer with cops.
Meanwhile, the safety committee presented a draft of its alternative plan at the LSC meeting and took feedback to revise it in the coming weeks.
The proposal called for a staff position focused on social and emotional support, such as an SEL specialist or a culture and climate coordinator. It also suggested creating a behavioral health team and partnering with a community mental health provider for on-site services.
To address any potential security void created by the officers’ removal, the committee called for one or two additional security guards. The school already has metal detectors at entrances and over 100 cameras throughout the building.
The alternative plan was estimated to cost between $124,000 and $166,000.
CPS said schools have until July 14 to vote.
“Jones isn’t in this SRO battle alone, and ... we can help to set precedents with the way that we handle our SROs,” said Doniya Boyd, the Jones LSC student representative.
“This is a wider systemic issue, and when Jones removes its SROs and when Jones implements more effective ways and less dangerous ways ... those things can influence other schools and generally make the system better.”
The Hyde Park Academy LSC is voting on school resource officers next week, as are dozens of other high schools this month. A group of Hyde Park students, teachers and parents held a news conference Friday to call for their officers to be removed, and reinvesting the money in alternatives.