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Chicago board votes to keep police in schools

June 24, 2020
Board members in favor of keeping the program said they worried about what would happen if police officers were removed from schools.

The Chicago School Board has voted to continue the practice of assigning nearly 200 city police officers to schools.

WBEZ Radio reports that the 4-to-3 vote Wednesday came after a lengthy and intense discussion. Students, parents, aldermen and others spoke out on the issue; the majority spoke in favor of ending the Chicago Police Department program.

But in the end, the majority of the board members said they worried about what would happen if they removed police from schools.

“Safety is of the utmost concern,” said Board President Miguel del Valle before voting to continue the program.

The Chicago district is the nation's third-largest public school system. Its board's decision comes one day after the board for the nation's second-largest district, Los Angeles Unified, made a similar decision not to curtail its relationship with the local police department.

The school district’s $33 million contract with city police expires in August. That means board members must vote again on continuing the program either at the July or August board meeting. One board member, Sendhil Revuluri, indicated that his vote might change if the contract is not drastically changed.

Seventy-two of 93 traditional high schools have police assigned to them, and another 48 officers patrol among various elementary schools.

The charge to remove police was led by board member Elizabeth Todd-Breland, a history professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She argued that having police in schools disproportionately hurts Black and Latino students.

The Minneapolis, Seattle and Portland school districts have all decided to end police-in-school programs in response to the recent uprisings.

The mayor and Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice Jackson have argued in favor of police in schools. Jackson says the decision to keep or remove police should be left to elected local school councils at individual schools.

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