August 3, 2020

A Chicago mom on how police got into public schools

Chicago’s mayor – Lori Lightfoot – isn’t interested in ending its $33 million contract to keep police officers in schools. Plainly put, she says, “Yeah, we’re not going to [remove officers]….we need security in our schools.”

Community activists say counseling programs reduce violence while the presence of officers has not.

Lightfoot’s resistance to calls for removing cops is out of step with other school districts looking for social justice credibility they’ve lacked for too long.

For instance, last week, the Minneapolis School Board continued their inability to focus on how to teach children to read, write or compute, opting instead on a vote to remove School Resource Officers from their schools.

I won’t make light of the decision because I generally support de-policifying schools, neighborhoods, and communities. Yet, I won’t fail to call out MPS’ long record of impulsively reacting like a puppy chasing an erratic laser pointer and then poorly implementing plans afterward.

Taking cops out of schools (especially Minneapolis’ racist ass suburban-living officers who drive in every day to over-police city citizens) is fine with me. It isn’t an academic intervention, which makes it attractive for people that don’t want to face their teaching problems, but I assure you MPS has no credible plan for what happens once their schools are police-free.

Following Minneapolis’s lead, other districts are considering removing officers from schools as penance for ignoring institutional racism for too long.

DenverOaklandPrince George’s County, and Portland are also considering “defunding” resource officers in schools.

But, Chicago isn’t joining yet.

Cassandra Kaczocha, a Chicago parent, has written a fascinating history of how police officers made it into the public schools in the first place.

She writes:

Although there were sporadic instances of Chicago police involvement with Chicago Public Schools, the first formal relationship between CPS and the Chicago Police Department began in 1966, when off-duty cops began being hired as high school security guards. This decision came in the wake of a 1963 school boycott protesting segregated schools, and amid the continuing civil rights conflicts happening in Chicago at the time.

I think it’s important to understand in the wake of year’s of civil unrest in cities across the nation, President Lyndon B. Johnson commissioned a group of moderate white dudes, led by a Senator from my home state of Illinois, to investigate the causes of the unrest and recommend remediation strategies.  This group, the Kerner Commission, provided a nearly 800 page report. The report recommended MASSIVE investment in creating social equity. The report recommended reparative justice. 

But President Lyndon B. Johnson felt like he’d already done enough to appease Black folks by passing the Civil Rights Act in 1964 and the Voting Rights Act in 1965. So, instead of following the commission’s recommendations, LBJ made massive investments in policing and prisons. The War on Crime and its investments in policing also greatly increased policing in schools. 

LBJ, with the help of supposedly “small government conservatives,” created a whole new government body to transfer federal tax dollars into local policing. Including, creating funding specifically for putting police into urban schools. The police were not put into schools to keep Black and Brown kids safe. They were added as a control measure to keep Brown and Black kids from demonstrating against the social conditions that harm them. While this particular government body was phased out in the 1980s, the false idea that Black and Brown children need additional social controls, including policing, has persisted.

From Nixon’s launch of the War on Drugs to Reagan’s reinvestment in it, to the  “superpredator” and “zero tolerance” rhetoric of the 1990s and early 2000s, the notion that police are required to keep our schools “under control” has continued to hold sway. It is only in the last decade that a sustained effort to change the narrative and change policy has emerged. You can read all about this here

Read the whole story at Chicago Unheard.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: