Progress Made Slowly But Thoughtfully In Removing School Discipline From The Cops | Editorial
Uniformed police officers, for a multitude of reasons, should not be stationed in public schools.
This has been our point of view for a few years now, and we will continue to argue as long as there are cops in the halls of any public elementary or high school in Chicago.
But today we would like to acknowledge the progress that has been made on this issue and the thoughtful way the debate has proceeded, although we urge those who agree with us – that there are better alternatives to cops. who repress 12-year-olds – to keep pushing.
If we know anything as a drafting board, it’s that change works best from the ground up, with new ways of thinking preceding new laws and policies. That takes time. So, with that humbling thought in mind, we find it heartwarming that at least a small number of CPS schools over the past two years have voted to remove all full-time police officers and – more encouragingly – dozens of Other schools have developed plans for alternatives to brutal police discipline.
These schools strive to create safer student environments, both physically and emotionally, whether or not that includes the presence of a full-time police officer. They take the sane position, for example, that a student’s encounter with a police officer should rarely, if ever, lead to criminal charges and the lifelong burden of a criminal record.
This would appear to be the bare minimum to slow down our country’s infamous and very real pipeline from school to prison.
We are seeing the start of a healthy shift in thinking about school discipline, and the advocates of removing uniformed officers from school buildings deserve much of the credit. They are heard.
On Wednesday, as the Sun-Times’ Nader Issa reported, the Board of Education voted to renew an agreement with the Chicago Police Department to assign officers to schools – schools that want them – for a cost of $ 11.1 million.
But it was a split vote, 4-2, with the two dissenting board members saying they could not support any policy allowing officers in any school. They stuck to this view even though the board also shifted $ 3.2 million of money previously spent on police officers to other more holistic approaches to school safety, such as hiring more than counselors and student peer group participation in restorative justice programs.
If we had voted on the board, we probably would have sided with the two dissidents, Elizabeth Todd-Breland and Luisiana Melendez. Their basic objection, that the daily presence of cops in schools seems to almost inevitably lead to disproportionate policing of black students, is true. And we, like Todd-Breland and Melendez, would have preferred a district-wide ban.
Too often, as we’ve written before, the kind of teen misconduct that might lead to counseling at a good suburban school is treated as a criminal matter at a city public school. This has been especially true for black students, who make up only about 36% of all CPS students and yet are the subject of 66% of all police notices.
The impact is lasting. It can be devastating. A 2018 study, from the University of California, Los Angeles, found that sending police officers to Texas schools led to lower college graduation and enrollment rates.
Yet we remain optimistic. It is good news that 42 police officers have so far been removed from school buildings. We respect the work of these officers, but believe that they can be of greater use by working in the streets outside of these schools.
And it’s good news – or at least we hope so – that the new school district CEO, Pedro Martinez, has expressed reservations about the school policing.
At a recent press conference, Martinez said cops should never be used to enforce school discipline, a very welcome opinion. He also said the SPC should consider creating its own highly specialized police force, which knows how to work well with children, which we find less attractive.
We’ll take on more counselors, social workers, and teachers, along with a whole new way of thinking about school discipline, every time.
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