Chicago school board votes to keep police in schools

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CHICAGO (AP) — Chicago’s school board voted Wednesday to keep police officers in public schools, rejecting the demands of activists and some politicians to cancel a contract with the police department and following the lead of Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who favors police presence in schools.

In a 4-3 vote, the Board of Education kept its $33 million contract with Chicago Police Department in effect. The board is expected to take another vote in the next two months on whether to renew the contract, which is set to expire in August.

The school district is the latest to grapple with how to address demands to get police officers out of schools. The Los Angeles Unified School District on Tuesday rejected a proposal to cut funds for campus police by 90% by 2024.

There are currently about 200 officers in nearly 70 Chicago schools. The Local School Council of each school has the ability to vote out police officers if it chooses. The councils are made up of parents, teachers and community members.

Lightfoot and Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice Jackson argued against the removal of officers, saying that decision should be left to individual schools.

Board member Elizabeth Todd-Breland argued research has made clear that the presence of officers hurt Black and brown students.

“I’m a Black mother. I’m a resident of the South Side of Chicago. I’m a former LSC member. I’m a former high school college counselor and a historian and an education researcher who studies race and education in Chicago," Todd-Breland said. “And in all of these roles, I am clear that police do not belong in schools.”

Todd-Breland was joined by the other two women on the board who voted to remove officers. The four men on the board, including President Miguel del Valle, chose to keep officers in schools. Del Valle and another board member, Lucino Sotelo, noted that they were beaten up by gang members in school while growing, and nobody was around to help them.

Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey told the board police in schools do not make students safer, but instead, criminalize them.

While there have long been calls to remove police officers from schools, student and parent demonstrators and the teachers union have stepped up their demand following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25. Floyd, a Black man, died last month after a white Minneapolis police officer put his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly eight minutes minutes.

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