On July 7, in a Zoom meeting packed with more than four times the typical attendance, the Local School Council of Northside College Prep High School took an unprecedented step and voted to remove the School Resource Officers that had been stationed inside their Chicago Public Schools high school. The vote followed a protest two days earlier organized by CPS Alumni for Abolition, where 80 students and teachers gathered at Northside College Prep to speak about their experiences with SROs and the necessity of removing them.
The vote is the the most recent development in the struggle led by young and oppressed people to remove police officers from CPS. In the weeks leading up to a Chicago Board of Education vote on whether or not to end the $33 million contract between CPS and the Chicago Police Department, students and community members organized large demonstrations, campaigns and phone banks to demonstrate their dedication to getting cops out of their schools. In a close three-to-four vote, the Board of Education, which is appointed by Mayor Lori Lightfoot, chose to keep the contract with CPD, making it up to each individual school’s LSC to vote on the presence of SROs in their schools.
SROs are CPD officers who are present at schools in full uniform, with bullet proof vests and lethal sidearms. For oppressed students, including students of color and female students, the presence of these police officers carries an implicit threat of violence. For many students, this threat is realized, and the presence of SROs is seen as a direct link in the school-to-prison pipeline. CPS Alumni for Abolition has collected testimonials from current and past CPS students detailing cases of sexual assault, racial profiling and abuse of power by SROs. The document of testimonials is currently 34 pages long. A student of Northside College Prep, Kiara Fufunan told Liberation News:
“Police in schools for some are a reminder of a larger force off-campus that threatens and intimidates certain races and ethnicities. Prioritizing their presence over resources for physical health, such as nurses, or mental health, such as therapists, is disrespectful to the students who experience trauma directly caused by police.”Kiara Fufunan, student, Northside College Prep
Tim Jung, a teacher at Northside, told Liberation News that in “the presence of armed police in an educational setting, students do suffer: those facing multiple oppressions may relive trauma, may have heightened anxiety, or may even fall victim to an act of state violence.”
“An ideal school helps students foster the ability to see multiple perspectives — but these multiple perspectives are not ones that are dehumanizing or silencing of others. … The goal of education, in the real world, is to see multiple perspectives and to understand the suffering of others. Doing so might allow us to imagine different social relationships, which could transform society for the better.”Tim Jung, teacher, Northside College Prep
The movement to remove police from public schools is part of the rebellion sweeping the country to demand racial justice. Fufanan pointed out that “this recent vote [to kick SROs out of Northside] could not have happened without the ongoing movement for Black lives. We’ve been forced to confront the systems that maintain order within the United States, and with that, we have to acknowledge who the systems protect and who they neglect.”
Kysani London, a member of CPS Alumni for Abolition, who organized the protest at Northside College Prep to put pressure on their LSC to remove the SROs, emphasized that even though this was a small-scale battle, the struggle is still revolutionary:
“Right now the small-scale police-free-school work that we’re engaging in can — in some ways — be seen as one of the first dominoes to fall in a series in the move for police abolition. … We, along with numerous other national organizations, are helping to push the door ajar for radical change surrounding the concept of policing.”Kysani London, CPS Alumni for Abolition