To view the press conference go to: https://www.facebook.com/ChicagoProgressiveCaucus/videos/vb.461351633938805/2645404849072243/?type=2&theater
CHICAGO, IL (July 2) — In advance of the city council Joint Committee of Public Safety and Education hearing on the Chicago Inspector General’s report on school resources officers in public schools, the Chicago Progressive Caucus held a press conference calling for the removal of Chicago Police Department officers from Chicago Public Schools, and for investment in developmentally appropriate alternatives that improve school safety, boost student attendance, raise academic achievement, and save taxpayer dollars.
“It is an embarrassment that Chicago has fallen behind on this incredibly important issue,” said Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6). “School districts around the nation have already figured out that police officers are not social workers, counselors, or classroom aides, and have instead invested in things that have been proven to work. What works is investing in trained social workers and trained restorative justice coordinators, instead of substituting CPD officers. It’s not fair for our officers, and it’s irreparably damaging our students. We must stop the school to prison pipeline.”
The U.S. Department of Education reported that in the 2015-2016 school year, CPS had the highest reported number of in-school arrests of any school district in the country; of those 1,030 arrests of CPS students, over 70% of the children were Black, despite Black students making up less than 40% of the school population. Ninety seven percent of in-school arrests were students of color. This year, Chicago public schools approved a $33 million budget to have police officers in schools. The Chicago Progressive Caucus is calling for Chicago to instead invest in systems that school districts around the country have already used and that have been proven to provide safer, more restorative learning environments.
“Police presence not only increases the risk of incarceration for students, it may re-traumatize them from violence they have witnessed or experienced,” said Dr. Rebekah Fenton, MD, Pediatrician and Adolescent Fellow, who spoke at the press conference today. “The resulting activation of adrenaline can negatively impact learning and functioning, and lead to lifelong mental and physical health problems, if untreated. Schools cannot be a place of true safety when students are required to interact with the same agents that have targeted their neighborhoods or killed unarmed Black youth in their city.”
“Our social workers are seeing students with an unprecedented exposure to trauma – depression, cutting, and suicidal attempts are up,” said Kyle Hillman, Director of Legislative Affairs at the National Association of Social Workers, one of the speakers featured today. “The last thing these students need is to be retraumatized each day they walk into our schools. We should address outside threats with outside solutions, but inside our schools our kids’ needs should be met with trauma informed solutions that create safe spaces for learning. We can’t hope to accomplish that with armed SROs in our schools.”
“There is no evidence that allowing CPD to have a presence in our children’s schools makes their classrooms safer,” said Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35). “Instead, we’ve seen a devastating impact of exclusionary discipline against our Black and Brown students, our students with disabilities, our LGBTQ+ students, and English Language Learner students. We must invest in programs and strategies that have already been proven to keep our kids safe and to foster healthy learning environments, free of violence.”
Activists nationwide have called for the removal of police from schools, and school districts around the country, including Minneapolis, Seattle, Portland, and Denver, have ended their contracts with local police departments and removed police officers from their schools. However Mayor Lightfoot has declined to do so, citing the need for school security while declining to address the issues posed by police officers in CPS.
“Instead of allowing armed CPD officers to bring unspeakable distress to our children, we should be investing in trauma-informed care for our students,” said Ald. Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez. “We put $33 million into our contract with CPD this year. We instead must invest in resources for our students, to build a learning environment that is more conducive to learning than simply obeying.”
In the last year, the Chicago Progressive Caucus has raised the minimum wage and passed the Fair Workweek Ordinance, providing workers with more control over their schedules and stability in their scheduled hours. The Progressive Caucus was also instrumental in increasing funding in the 2020 budget for frontline public health staff and hours of service at the city’s mental health clinics.
To view this mornings press conference go to: https://www.facebook.com/ChicagoProgressiveCaucus/videos/vb.461351633938805/2645404849072243/?type=2&theater
To view the live stream of the Joint Committee of Public Safety and Education hearing on the Chicago Inspector General’s report on school resources officers in public schools go to: https://www.chicityclerk.com/joint-virtual-committee-public-safety-education
To view the of Chicago Inspector General’s Report of the Chicago Police Department’s Management of School Resource Officers Follow-Up Inquiry go here: https://igchicago.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/CPD-SRO-Review-Follow-Up-Inquiry.pdf