In turnaround, Chicago promises to track, publicize upcoming school police votes

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Yana Kunichoff / Chalkbeat Chicago

At a rally outside of Lincoln Park High School on June 4, young Chicagoans called for the removal of police in schools. The mayor has said it is up to individual campuses to decide.

This story was originally published on July 22 by Chalkbeat, a nonprofit news organization covering public education. Sign up for their newsletters here.

Following calls for more transparency around Local School Council meetings, Chicago Public Schools says it will post a list of campuses with police officers and a centralized list of upcoming vote dates on the issue.

The announcement comes after a joint Chalkbeat Chicago and Block Club Chicago investigation found that multiple councils failed to post meetings publicly or follow other rules that allow parents and community members to participate.

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Previously, Chicago Public Schools did not track school council meeting information or votes centrally. In response, Chalkbeat Chicago and Block Club Chicago began tracking school police votes and keeping an updated list of coming meetings.

Now the information will go online on a district webpage by the end of the week, schools chief Janice Jackson told the Board of Education Wednesday.

“As part of our commitment to transparency, a list of schools, along with the scheduled date of their SRO votes, will be posted on our website,” Jackson said.

The district has instructed all schools with police to vote on whether to retain officers by August 14.

While promising change around the current vote, the announcement fell short of promising broader change on how the district collects broader information on Local School Council meetings. The councils, which are made up of educators, parents, and community representatives, have the authority to hire and evaluate principals and approve school budgets and improvement plans.

Asked last week at a press conference about reports that some councils weren’t posting meeting details and leaving communities without a mechanism for participation, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said it was the individual groups’ responsibility to inform their communities about meetings, not the school district’s.

However, the district has done some work to offer councils support in the decision making process.

Jackson notes Wednesday the district created a toolkit for council members and hosted a webinar with LSC chairs on engaging the public appropriately. “We are committed to ensuring everyone’s voice is heard,” Jackson said. “CPS remains committed to providing a safe environment for all our students.”

Students have called for the removal of police in schools at multiple rallies. So far, six councils have voted to keep police and two have voted to remove them. Several councils have met but delayed the vote.

The school board will consider whether to renew the district’s $33 million contract with the police department in August.

Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news site covering educational change in public schools.