Hyde Park Academy High School students, alumni, parents and staff held a press conference outside of the school on Friday afternoon to speak about the reasons they want school resource officers (SROs) to be removed. The press conference comes just before the Local School Council (LSC) votes on whether to keep two SROs at the school or to remove them, reinvesting the money into alternatives.
“Today we are here to tell the Hyde Park LSC that we are watching you and we are hoping that you all choose the right decision on SROs,” said Ling Young, a youth organizer with Southside Together Organizing for Power (STOP). “We demand alternatives to policing. We want counselors, teachers, and all those things that our school is supposed to have, not just things that we are imagining or we're hoping to have.”
Ling says the school spends $304,000 a year for the two SROs at Hyde Park Academy. The plan that students and allies are calling for includes 2 restorative justice officers, a counselor, a social worker, a parent advocate, afterschool and in-school activities, a peace room, and partnerships with community-based, trauma-informed service providers.
A sophomore at HP Academy named Davione Jackson said he feels unsafe with the SROs present at the school. “First of all, you're in an environment surrounded by 14-19 year-olds (and) carrying guns, tasers, handcuffs and pepper spray.” Jackson says that having those weapons around minors is excessive, and that he feels the officers should view their voice as enough authority.
According to Alex Goldenberg, Executive Director of STOP, individual LSCs across Chicago were scheduled to make the decision on Monday, June 14, but the plan the LSCs were going to vote on didn’t meet CPS criteria. The new deadline for all 55 schools with SROs to vote on their safety plan is July 14.
CPS has asked all schools with SROs to create a Whole School Safety Plan for the 2021-2022 school year. CPS has partnered with five community organizations to develop a roadmap for phase 1 of the plan. Community partners include Voices of Youth in Chicago Education (VOYCE), Mikva Challenge, Community Organizing and Family Issues, The ARK of St. Sabina, and BUILD Inc. During Phase 1, each school has been tasked with creating a safety committee to “reimagine safety for their schools.”