The local school council for Westinghouse College Prep narrowly voted on Aug. 11 to keep Chicago police officers on campus.
The 6-4 vote to keep officers comes after the decision was pushed back several times to better define what school resource officers do, gather more student and teacher input, and ensure there were enough votes for a majority.
At a previous meeting, board members also narrowly voted 5-4 in favor of keeping school police. But Chicago Public Schools required six votes from the 11-member council one way or the other to be binding.
Nearly everyone who spoke to the council at multiple town halls demanded police officers be removed from campus. No community members spoke in support of keeping officers at the meeting for the final vote.
Many said they worried the presence of officers would reinforce the school-to-prison pipeline and the trauma Black youths face by being criminalized for misbehaving in school. Teacher Anne Prendergast said the majority of teachers she surveyed also supported removing officers.
“Black students in CPS are being overpoliced by SROs relative to their representation in the population,” she said. “We have to ensure that we’re creating a climate that allows Black students to be treated with the same dignity and respect as their white peers.”
But a survey of some students and parents showed most who responded favored keeping officers, according to school leaders.
Council members who voted to keep the officers said they understand the frustrations, but they feel officers are needed because of high crime activity in the surrounding area that could affect students.
Parent representative Marvin Simpson said he sympathizes with those calling to defund Chicago Police, but doesn’t want to remove officers from the school until there’s some alternative.
“If you remove SROs from the school, what are you replacing them with?” Simpson said.
Pascal Sabino is a Report for America corps member covering Austin, North Lawndale and Garfield Park for Block Club Chicago.