As Chicago Public Schools renegotiates a new contract with the Chicago Police Department, a couple dozen high schools that had opted to only have one officer in their building this school year could in fact have a second cop for a little while longer, officials said Monday.
The votes by 53 Local School Councils this spring on whether to maintain their school police programs resulted in 23 schools removing one officer and eight getting rid of both. Though a majority of schools still have at least one cop, that process for the first time redirected more than $3 million to alternative safety and mental health measures after years of complaints by students about feeling overpoliced in their learning environments.
The expectation for the schools that voted to get rid of one or both of their officers was the decision would take effect at the start of this school year. But in an email to principals and LSC chairpersons Monday, CPS chief of safety and security Jadine Chou said CPD is considering keeping its officers in some schools until a new contract is finalized — though she vowed to ensure the votes are honored.
“Coming out of the pandemic, out of concerns raised by CPD to ensure the safety of schools and their school communities ... CPD has directed that they are reviewing their assignments to potentially add a temporary second officer to those 23 schools who elected to only have 1 SRO during the transition back to school,” Chou wrote.
Asked Monday why the department felt those assignments were necessary or how long they could last, Chicago police forwarded questions to CPS.
Chou said through a spokesman, “We believe that it is absolutely critical that we are honoring this past year’s process and outcomes worked by all of the Whole School Safety Committees and Local School Councils.”
Those 23 schools won’t be paying for the second officer, and their funds for safety alternatives won’t be affected, CPS said.
A committee of five advocate groups — VOYCE, The ARK of St. Sabina, Build Inc., COFI and Mikva Challenge — that have worked with CPS to help the district move away from school policing said in a statement that CPD should respect each school’s votes and remove the extra officers promptly.
“We call on CPD to respect the extensive community engagement process that took place over the past year,” the groups wrote.
The agreement between CPS and CPD which governs the assignment of uniformed police officers in schools is typically up for a renewal by the Board of Education in August, a vote that last year garnered plenty of attention as racial justice protests swept the nation. This year, with a revised contract still not finished, that vote may not come until September or October.
CPS paid little to no money to CPD for police officers last school year. No cops were in schools when students were at home for remote learning first semester, then the district decided it didn’t need police when only 25% of kids returned for in-person classes second semester.