The Chicago Police Department’s decision to keep two officers at the start of the school year in 23 schools that voted to only have one is “unacceptable” and disregards the democratic processes dozens of schools went through the past few months, a school board member said Wednesday.
The move by Chicago police to assign two cops to those schools appeared to also come against the wishes of Chicago Public Schools officials, who said they would work to address the situation as soon as they could with students returning next week.
In an email to principals and Local School Council chairpersons earlier this week, CPS safety and security chief Jadine Chou said CPD raised safety concerns in making its decision. Those 23 schools had developed and voted on alternative safety plans over the summer, opting to keep only one school police officer instead of two and reinvest that money in other student support services.
“I’m unclear what the safety concern is or who exactly armed police officers would be afraid of in our school buildings,” Board of Education member Elizabeth Todd-Breland said at Wednesday’s school board meeting.
“At this point if it’s the student body, based on where [officers] are, that’s a disproportionately Black student body located in Black communities. Are we afraid of the families in our schools? There’s no rationale. It’s not dog whistling, it’s screaming, to me.”
Chicago police officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment. When asked about the situation earlier in the week, they referred questions to CPS.
Todd-Breland said many communities feel their schools are the safest place their kids can go, and it’s “deeply offensive” for CPD to feel the need to keep a second officer in schools that only want one.
“As it is, police are the only adults in our building with guns and bulletproof vests,” she said. “But their leadership says they don’t feel safe. Why would we want adults with that mindset in our building?”
Chou thanked Todd-Breland for her comments and said she would monitor the situation next week with the aim of removing the second officer from those schools potentially within days.
School policing has been one of the most hotly discussed issues since last summer’s social justice protests. Black students in particular have said for years that they’re treated harshly by police in what’s supposed to be a welcoming learning environment. A Sun-Times analysis last year showed Black students and children in special education are disproportionately policed compared to their peers.
Since last year, CPS has left the decision to individual schools on whether to keep or remove officers. And after providing no additional resources to schools that voted to remove officers last year, the district supported schools in developing alternative safety plans this year with the option of receiving about $50,000 for other programs for every officer they opt to remove. Twenty-three schools removed one cop and eight removed both this year.