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West Side Chicago residents urge Board of Ed not to pull resource officers from schools

West Side Chicago residents push back against efforts to remove school resource officers
West Side Chicago residents push back against efforts to remove school resource officers 00:53

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Some residents of the West Side's Austin neighborhood on Wednesday encouraged the Chicago Board of Education not to pull police officers from schools.

The board on Thursday is set to consider a resolution calling for the Chicago Public Schools system to end its school resource officer program by 2025.

The resolution also asks CPS to develop a "holistic" approach to school safety.

As a candidate, Mayor Brandon Johnson supported removing police from schools.

Some community members in Austin said they believe safety decisions should rest with local school councils.

"The reason why the local school council was put in place in the first place was to give each individual school community autonomy and a say in what goes on in their school," said Eben Credit, an education committee member of the South Side NAACP.

Community members expressed concern about the consequences of a decision to remove resource officers.

"We strongly request that they have that right, that autonomy, and the power to make that decision if they want resources officers in their school. It is vital, it is important, and we are concerned with the absence of them, tragic things will happen in our community," said Karl A. Brinson, president of the Chicago West Side Branch of the NAACP. "So we ask the mayor and the Board of Education to leave this decision in the hand of our local LSCs."

"My number one concern is the safety and wellbeing of our kids. Everyone is aware of the type of world we're living in now. We've seen on the news too many times – somebody comes in from outside, shoots up the school, you know, killing innocent kids that had nothing to do with it," said the Rev. Henry McDavid, president of the local school council at Michele Clark Academic Prep Magnet High School, which his grandson attends. "We need the resource officers there, because it gives the children a sense of security. It's hard enough to learn without being worried about, 'Am I going to be alive to go home?'"

Bernard Clay, education chair for the West Side Branch of the NAACP, said local school councils had seen their power erode – with the "unelected Chicago Board of Education" eliminating some of the power of the LSCs.

Currently, just 39 high schools have police officers on campus. In recent years, it has been left up to leaders at the individual school whether to have school resource officers in the building.

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.

Police Supt. Larry Snelling said this month if the contract does end, officers will still have a presence 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."

Opponents of school resource officers – or SROs – argue that students arrested on campus often end up in the criminal justice system for in-school disciplinary incidents.

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