Watch CBS News

Chicago Board of Education votes to remove Chicago Police officers from schools

Chicago Board of Education votes to remove police officers from schools
Chicago Board of Education votes to remove police officers from schools 02:27

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The Chicago Board of Education on Thursday voted to end the school resource officer program and remove all Chicago police officers from public schools.

The vote was unanimous. Starting in August, Chicago Police will only be allowed outside public schools.

"Today's resolution is fulfilling the board's commitment to focus on alternative systems of safety," said Chicago Board of Education member Michelle Morales.

In recent years, leaders at individual schools have decided whether to have school resource officers in the building. That will no longer be the case.

Currently, just 39 high schools have police officers on campus. A total of 23 have one SRO on staff, while 16 have two.

At a hearing Thursday before the vote, the school board heard from the public about the program's future. The issue sparked intense debate on whether the officers make students feel more or less safe.

Students, faculty members, and parents spent the day mulling over that question.

CPS still has more than 1,400 security officers who are not members of the Police Department.

"We will continue to collaborate with CPD on its support for arrival and dismissal times, and responses to emergencies," said Board of Education member Rudy Lozano Jr.

School resource officers remain a heated topic of debate

Even though the vote Thursday was unanimous, the debate around whether or not police officers make students feel more or less safe is ongoing. At the hearing before the vote Thursday, there was a tense back-and-forth between some of the community members who came both to support and oppose the vote.

During the meeting, a group marched through and chanted, "From the West Side to the south, SROs, we want you out!" A protest with signs and a bullhorn was also held outside Chicago Public Schools headquarters downtown.

Those who opposed school resource officers said students arrested on campus often end up in the criminal justice system for in-school disciplinary incidents.

"We are demanding the money be reinvested and reallocated to restorative justice tactics that don't criminalize or subject our students to harsh punishments," said Essence Gatheright of Chicago Freedom Schools. 

"We demand increased investment in the education system and removal of all police from our schools, bring those funds back to our schools, and the end the destructive school-to-prison pipeline," said Anna Durr, Restorative Justice Practitioner. 

They also said they would rather the money be invested in more school programming – or to pay for school counselors.

"We have so many mob action fights that happen in high school, and you would just see the officer sitting just there – doesn't break up the fight, doesn't interact, doesn't move the students, doesn't stop it," said Hyde Park Academy High School junior Makayla Acevedo, "and I just really feel like we really need those funds to reinvest all of that money to get the programs in order for all students, parents, and others to be successful I life and to reach their dreams."

Acevedo said the money paid for a school resource officer was taking resources away from other school needs.

"My dream is to become a nurse, but we don't have a nursing program at Hyde Park Academy – yet we do have a cop that we pay $180,000," she said.

However, some administrators have complained that the city's school board is pushing to take away schools' choices as to whether to have resource officers, and some principals have also pushed back because they want the decision to remain theirs.

"I'm not going to go to Edgewater and tell you what to do in Edgewater. I don't live up there," said Dwayne Truss, a former Chicago Board of Education member and a West Side parent. "I live in Austin, grew up in West Garfield Park, hang out in Lawndale. I can tell you about those communities."

Ald. Nicholas Sposato (38th) said removing police officers from schools would leave everyone vulnerable to violence and danger.

"I'm just telling you all right now - the blood is going to be on your hands if something happens to some kids, or some teacher, or some crazy parent in the parking lot," he said.

The matter of school resource took center stage when student-led protests surrounded City Hall in the months after the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police in May 2020. Activists demanded that police officers be pulled from Chicago public schools, and have been making the demand ever since.

Police Supt. Larry Snelling said this month that if the contract with CPS were to end, officers will still be present outside campuses before and after school.

"We will adjust," Snelling said. "We're not going to be offended because we're voted out of the schools. We're just going to continue to do the work we do and make sure that these kids are safe - especially at the schools where we know that we've had some problems with fights and violence."

Mayor Brandon Johnson has said he supports removing police from schools.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.