Chicago Police In Schools To Stay Out Of Discipline Matters

CPS police
Bill Healy / WBEZ
CPS police
Bill Healy / WBEZ

Chicago Police In Schools To Stay Out Of Discipline Matters

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Chicago Public Schools and the Police Department have finalized an agreement that dictates how officers stationed in schools are to be selected, trained and their roles and responsibilities.

The school district and city had come under fire for not having clear parameters for this controversial and expensive program. A court-ordered police reform plan known as a consent decree also required such an agreement be put in place.

The finalized agreement was signed in December and quietly posted on the school district’s website. The education news website Chalkbeat first reported on it Wednesday.

In August, the Chicago Board of Education gave the go-ahead for the school district to enter into an agreement and it approved a one-year $33 million contract. As a result, even before the details were finalized, many of the agreement’s elements had already been implemented for the 72 police officers in high schools and another smaller group that travels between elementary schools.

For example, this summer, principals and local school councils were given the chance to decide whether to have police stationed in their school at all. Also, current school-based police officers were trained on how they should limit their roles into focus on threats to student safety and crimes.

The agreement requires that schools choose whether to have officers, mandates officer training and prohibits officers from getting involved in discipline or situations that could be handled by school staff.

It also sets up an evaluation process for the officers, which will mostly be handled by the Police Department but can be informed by the school. Further, school administrators will have a way to complain about the conduct of officers and there must be a “swift review” by the Police Department and resolution.

Derrianna Ford, a student at Mather High School, said she’s disappointed students and parents don’t have a way to complain about police officers. She is on the youth council run by the advocacy organization VOYCE, which has pushed for the removal of all police officers from schools.

“I don’t even think if a big whole situation would go down, CPS would even complain,” she said. “They are just going to sit back and let things happen.”

She said she has not noticed a difference in the way the police officers interact with students this year.

But Derrick Magee, who is also part of VOYCE’s youth council, said he has noticed a change. The police officers used to roam the halls during passing periods at Austin High School, but now they mostly stay in an office in the basement.

He said this is a positive development. “We don’t have to be afraid,” he said.

But Magee said school administrators still threaten students with calling the police for school-related matters.

As news that the finalized agreement had gotten public attention, Chicago Public Schools and the Police Department issued a joint statement saying, “we continue to work together to build on codifying these efforts in partnership with school communities.”

Sarah Karp covers education for WBEZ. Follow her on Twitter at @WBEZeducation and @sskedreporter.