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Letters to the Editor

Chicago schools value police over social workers

Dnigma Howard Marshall High School Surveillance Still

An image taken from CPS surveillance video obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times of an incident in January at Marshall High School in which a student was shocked with a stun gun by Chicago police officers. The video is now at the center of a federal lawsuit against the city and Chicago Public Schools. | Provided photo

After reading the Sun-Times’ initial report on the incident with police and a 16-year-old Marshall High School student with an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), I showed the video footage to my students at Back of the Yards College Prep.

My civics students, some of whom have IEPs, had a similar response to mine after viewing the first video. Many of my students wanted to know the context for the police response before they passed judgment.

As a civics teacher, I was gratified to see that they wanted to understand the whole picture. But I also thought, “What could possibly justify the use of a Taser and the punching of a student in a school building?”

Although it is easy to see this as an isolated event, it is a symptom of a more significant problem: Across the country, students with social and emotional needs are increasingly over-policed and under-supported by social workers and counselors, who are spread thin or non-existent.

With the release of the new security footage, I took advantage of another powerful opportunity to integrate this current event in my classrooms. Students found the second video horrifying. Some wondered why nobody had intervened, and if the same thing could happen at our school.

Others suggested that officers be better trained to work with students in schools. But one student asked, why wasn’t there a social worker or counselor to talk with this student instead of a police officer?

The answer is that Chicago prioritizes funding for police over social workers.

Your editorial argues what should be obvious: Counselors are more useful than police in schools. You are right, but you failed to note that Chicago schools do not have enough social workers and counselors. It is recommended that schools have a 1:250 social worker to student ratio, but Chicago Public Schools’ ratio is closer to 1:1,200.

Our city needs to spend more on ensuring that all our young people have access to the social and emotional services needed to be successful, and less on policing black and brown bodies in schools.

Had Dnigma Howard been talking to a social worker, with whom she had a relationship, this incident would likely have not occurred.

Alexander Rolnick, Pilsen 

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Gaming tax hike hurts small businesses 

In a resort town like Fox Lake, where I own a small business, our local economy is reliant on the hospitality industry.

Fox Lake isn’t unique. Hundreds of communities across Illinois are in a similar position. It wasn’t that long ago that tough times forced me to close my sports pub, Fifty K.

Ever since Illinois allowed video gaming, we’ve been able to stay in business, keep our local employees working, and keep our main street vibrant.

Now, Gov. J.B. Pritzker and others in Springfield are discussing raising taxes on video gaming.

Do they know that we — the small businesses — already pay a higher tax rate on video gaming than the out-of-state corporate casinos pay? Do they know that small towns like Fox Lake, which don’t have a lot of industry jobs, rely on small businesses like mine to keep our community attractive to visitors?

If this proposed tax hike is approved, small businesses across Illinois will be forced to close. This will leave small towns and main streets to suffer.

Since 2012, video gaming has paid $1.5 billion in taxes to state and local governments. Video gaming already pays our fair share in taxes, while also contributing to the local economy.

Leaders in Springfield should focus on supporting small businesses, not on policies that could force them to close.

Don Otway, Fox Lake