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More Chicago high schools vote to keep police resource officers, though protests against them go on

A protester holds a message of police-free schools at an Occupy City Hall protest Aug. 3, 2020, outside the Thompson Center in Chicago.
A protester holds a message of police-free schools at an Occupy City Hall protest Aug. 3, 2020, outside the Thompson Center in Chicago. (Jose M. Osorio / Chicago Tribune)

Local councils from at least 19 Chicago high schools have now voted to keep school resource officers on their campuses, even as protests against policing in schools continued Monday.

Last week, local school councils from Taft, Farragut and Harper high schools all voted to continue with the program. They joined others that have voted this summer in favor of school resource officers, including Air Force Academy, Amundsen, Chicago Vocational, Corliss, Douglass, Goode, Harlan, Hubbard, Hyde Park, Kelly, Kenwood, King, Marshall, Michele Clark and Morgan Park, according to the Chicago Public Schools’ website.

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Hirsch High’s council also voted to keep its officer, but the vote was nonbinding because too few members were present.

By contrast, only three school councils — from Northside Prep, Clemente and Juarez high schools — have voted to discontinue having a Chicago officer stationed on those campuses. Dozens more are yet to schedule a vote on the matter.

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Several other schools were due to vote last week, but the outcomes had not yet been reported by CPS as of Monday afternoon. The district is keeping a running list of schools and their decisions on its website after community members pushed for greater transparency about the process.

The Chicago Board of Education declined to end its $33 million contract with the Chicago Police Department in late June, instead punting the decision about having officers in schools to each high school’s local school council. Meetings are ongoing, with the last few scheduled for Aug. 12.

Some detractors have expressed concerns that local school councils are not always the best equipped to make these decisions. They argue the councils haven’t been given alternative options by CPS, nor do the councils have the power to redirect money usually spent on resource officers to other services. Many councils also do not regularly post meeting minutes or have enough members to meet the necessary quorum requirements.

At Hirsch, of the six remaining council members, four attended the meeting, all voting to stay in the resource officer program, Principal David Narain said. One member indicated via email that she did not support keeping the officers, while another member has not been active for some time, Narain said.

If school councils do not have enough members for a binding vote, CPS recommends they conduct a community feedback poll to gauge opinions. The principal and network chief will then make the final decision.

Taft High School’s council voted 12-0 to keep the officers “after much debate and discussion,” according to a statement on the school’s website. For the upcoming school year, Taft will have two school resource officers each at its two campuses, pending a renewed contract between the Board of Education and the Police Department, which the board could vote on later this month.

“Going forward, Taft’s LSC has agreed to promote, foster and monitor the relationships between the SROs and our staff and students,” Taft’s statement said.

Demands from student activists to remove officers from schools intensified after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in late May, with protesters arguing these officers disproportionately target Black and Latino students. The Chicago Teachers Union, the parents’ group Raise Your Hand and some local politicians have been supportive of the campaign. The CTU and community members who rallied Monday against CPS plans to reopen schools this fall also raised their objections to continued policing in schools.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot has previously dismissed calls to remove police from schools.

chao@chicagotribune.com

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