Chicago schools to remove police officers, citing students’ ’emotional safety’

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The Chicago Board of Education voted Tuesday to remove police officers from public schools, citing students’ “emotional safety,” despite the city’s increase in criminal activity.

In a 7-0 vote, the board unilaterally determined that Chicago Public Schools will not renew its contract with the Chicago Police Department. The decision effectively stripped power away from individual schools to decide whether to staff resource officers.

Currently, CPD officers patrol 39 of the district’s 634 schools. WFLD reported that none of the city’s public elementary schools have school resource officers.

Teachers, students, and elected city officials addressed the board ahead of the Thursday vote. During the nearly eight-hour school board meeting, some students stated that the resource officers scare them, Fox News Digital reported.

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Those who supported the removal of the officers claimed that they failed to make the campuses safer and discriminated against minorities. Supporters contended that money spent on staffing the officers could be better spent elsewhere.

Others argued that police officers’ presence on school campuses keeps students safe. Some reasoned that it should be left up to individual schools to decide whether they want to staff resource officers.

The vote to remove the officers was part of a new “Whole School Safety Policy” approved by the board. According to WFLD, the updated policy will have to receive final approval from the board over the summer to go into effect in the upcoming school year.

Following the vote, the board wrote a letter stating, “We want to be clear that many schools will still employ physical safety personnel like security guards at points of entry, and crossing guards and Safe Passage workers to ensure students can get to and from school safely.”

“Some schools will also continue to use physical security tools such as security cameras or metal detectors. Furthermore, each school will still maintain a relationship with their local Chicago Police Department ‘School Sergeant,’ a position assigned to each police district to provide safety support to schools,” the board added.

The funds previously used to staff SROs will be reallocated for “alternative safety positions, resources, and interventions,” the board noted. WFLD reported that the alternative safety initiatives include staffing “restorative justice coordinators and youth intervention specialists.” Other initiatives include “re-engagement, healing-centered, and restorative discipline practices,” the outlet stated. It noted that funds may also be used to provide school staff with “de-escalation” training.

Board member Mariela Estrada claimed that the resolution makes good on “the board’s commitment to focus on alternative systems of safety that create that physical and emotional safety that we heard earlier shared by so many young people,” KOMO reported.

Board member Tanya Woods said, “This doesn’t take away from the importance of considering the unique context of our school communities when it comes to creating our universal goal of establishing physical, emotional, and relational safety in every school.”

According to CPD statistics, overall crime increased 16% in 2023 compared to 2022. Murder dropped 13%, and burglary dropped 2%. However, motor vehicle theft increased by 37%, robbery by 23%, aggravated battery by 6%, criminal sexual assault by 3%, and theft by 3%. Overall, crime in Chicago has increased 68% since 2020.

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