Chicago Public School Board Votes to Keep Police Officers in Schools

June 25, 2020 Updated: June 25, 2020

Chicago Public School (CPS) Board of Education on Wednesday rejected a proposal that would have ended its agreement with the city’s police department to post police officers in schools.

In a tight 4-3 vote, the seven-member board decided not to terminate a $33 million contract with the city of Chicago. Under the contract, the Chicago Police Department provides nearly 200 officers spread across more than 70 CPS schools, including 144 school resource officers (SROs) assigned to high schools, and 44 mobile school officers going between various elementary schools.

“Recent incidents of police violence against black people across our country, and in our city, are in direct conflict with the values of the district and require us to take action,” the proposal stated (pdf), claiming that Chicago PD officers acting as school resource officers disproportionately target black students due to racial bias.

Board President Miguel del Valle, who led the majority “no” votes, emphasized that schools in Chicago have become safer because of various school-based law enforcement efforts, such as “Safe Passage,” a program between schools, police departments, and communities to secure safe routes for students walking to and from school.

“I ask those who advocate that school resource officers to be removed from schools, please go into the communities impacted by violence,” said board member Dwayne Truss, who is black, before casting a “no” vote. “Every community is different,” he said.

Without school resource officers, “schools are not going to have that safety net that they have,” said Truss. “I wish we had an environment possible where we didn’t need school resource officers.”

The school district’s annual contract with Chicago PD is set to expire at the end of August. It means board members still have to vote on whether to renew the contract either at a July or August board meeting.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who appointed all CPS board members, dismissed the call for a blanket removal of police officers from schools, saying that the decision should be left to individual school councils, which consist of parents, teachers, and community members.

“We’re not going to do that,” Lightfoot said during a June 5 press conference, when asked if she would consider canceling the contract between CPS and the Chicago PD. “Unfortunately, we need security in our schools.”

“CPS implemented sweeping changes earlier this year to ensure local school councils are empowered to make their own decisions about whether to have school resource officers in their schools,” she said in an earlier statement. “I am pleased that both CPS and CPD are soliciting feedback and engagement on this issue so they can be sure to respond to various communities’ concerns.”