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Read the letter:

To Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice Jackson, the Chicago Board of Education, CPS principals, LSC representatives, and alderpeople across the city:

 

As graduates of Chicago Public Schools, we urge you to terminate the Chicago Public Schools district's contract with the Chicago Police Department in advance of August 31, 2020 — the CPS/CPD policy renewal deadline. In the district, almost 89% of the students are people of color, and around 36% of students are Black, who are disproportionately criminalized and traumatized by police presence in our public schools. 

 

CPS currently has a $33 million contract with the Chicago Police Department. This should be reallocated to fund resources — social workers, librarians, nurses, speech-language pathologists, and mental health counselors in schools — that support marginalized students by addressing root causes of readily visible problems, instead of continually relying upon punitive enforcement structures that disproportionately criminalize Black and brown students.

On the national scale, Black students are 2.2 times more likely to be referred to law enforcement or to be arrested at school than white students, even though evidence shows that students of color do not engage in more disruptive behavior than white students. Chicago’s numbers are worse. According to federal data, Black students in Chicago were five times more likely to be referred to police than their white peers from 2013-2014. 

 

Mayor Lightfoot, you ran to lead this city on a promise of dismantling structures that perpetuate racial violence in this city. In your “Plan to Transform Chicago Public Schools,” this transformation is listed as your first priority. The presence of CPD officers in schools is one of the most prominent examples of a structure that perpetuates racial violence. Your plan states, “Heartfelt statements are not, in and of themselves, sufficient; we need actions to make them a reality.” You have broken our trust by defaulting to ineffective reforms and refusing to advocate for the removal of school resource officers from CPS.

 

We demand that you support our call for CPS to terminate its contract with CPD — a critical and material step to ensure that Black, brown, and Indigenous students are safe in their schools. While local school councils and principals have power to add and remove officers, we call on all CPS representatives and city officials  to advocate for the complete and unequivocal end to the presence of police in our city’s schools. Mayor Lightfoot, leverage your power and voice within CPS and CPD. 

 

We have witnessed many police both profile and intimidate our Black, brown, and Indigenous friends at our high schools through interrogation, unfounded accusations, and targeted searches. These encounters with police in schools are not isolated events in a student’s life. Instead, these disproportionately-administered disciplinary actions in CPS constitute one step in the school-to-prison pipeline for Black, brown, and Indigenous students, as those labeled as “disruptive” are often arrested by in-school law enforcement and are then directed into the juvenile justice system. Research shows that incarceration in adolescence and early adulthood is associated with worse physical and mental health outcomes over time, as well as negative impacts on educational attainment and increased probability of future incarceration

 

The disproportionate application of punitive policing measures on students of color is a clear manifestation of systemic racism that continually disenfranchises young Black and brown people.

 

In this moment of national collective action against racist police violence, we must ask ourselves: What is the purpose of police officers within educational spaces? Law enforcement within our schools is not safety; it is not justice. The funding of police in schools, at the expense of critical school resources, does not ensure the children of Chicago the bright future they deserve. Instead, the presence of police in schools defers and denies the necessary guarantees of public education: a pathway to prosperity and health.

 

Ending the presence of police in our city’s schools is not a symbolic act. The presence of law enforcement within our learning institutions both increases the susceptibility of marginalized students to unchecked police violence and systematically funnels students into the criminal justice system. School resource officers do not provide low-income students of color with resources — they do not make us safer. 

 

For every highly-visible example of police violence that occurs in schools, there are many others that are unreported. Last year, CPD officers tased and dragged a 16-year-old student down the stairs. Across the country, we have seen the impact of policing in schools: students body-slammed, thrown across classrooms, and beaten

 

Chicago Public Schools’ current investment in police presence in educational settings reflects a broader national pattern of investing in the carceral solutions, instead of schools and students. CPS should follow the lead of its counterparts at the Minneapolis Board of Education, who have voted unanimously to terminate the district’s contract with the Minneapolis Police Department. On June 7, we learned that the Minneapolis City Council committed to disbanding the Minneapolis Police Department, voting in a veto-proof majority. On June 4 , Portland Public Schools also ended its practice of using school resource officers

 

As of 2018, there are 220 CPD officers with school-related postings. The city’s investment in policing Chicago’s youth comes at the expense of students’ fundamental needs. The National Association of Social Workers recommends one social worker for every 250 students and, in schools with high levels of trauma, one social worker for every 50 students. Across CPS, there is one social worker for every 865 students

 

You have a choice: to either cement the unfounded belief in the status quo that police officers within schools are neutral arbiters of student safety; or, to reinvest and rebuild the classrooms of Chicago students across the city. We believe the removal of police officers in Chicago Public Schools is a step toward ensuring the health and safety of our city’s youth. 

 

We can no longer idly stand by while students in our city’s schools are subjugated to an unjust, racist system of policing which automatically deems them guilty. Show the youth of this city that they are not a problem to be managed by the criminal justice system. Remove the 220 police officers from Chicago Public Schools and terminate the city’s contract with CPD. Show these students that they are brilliant and worthy of care, quality education, real safety and joy. Invest in the future of Chicago, because these youth deserve it. 

 

Signed,

CPS Alumni for Abolition

SIGNATURE TOTAL TRACKER: 3322

last updated: sept. 14, 2020, 6:54 pm
site launch: jun. 9, 2020, 11:07 am 

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