The Local School Council (LSC) at Hyde Park Academy voted last week to keep both of its student resource officers (SROs) in the school, as reported at the time by Block Club Chicago. But Alex Goldenberg of Southside Together Organizing for Power (STOP), which has called to remove police from the high school, told the Herald that he remains hopeful for the future.
“Last year the vote was unanimous to keep police in the school and this year it wasn't," he said. "I'm also hopeful (because) there's some conversation, potentially about revisiting the vote before the deadline to submit the decision to CPS.”
During last Monday night’s LSC meeting, arguments in favor to keep or remove the two student resource officers (SROs) were thrown back and forth. Seven members voted to keep both SROs, two members were in favor of keeping only one, while two others wanted them removed completely.
Community Representative Maira Khwaja, who is currently undergoing a challenge to her position on the LSC, was informed that the chair could possibly call for a re-vote about the SRO plan, as the deadline to submit a plan is July 14. Khwaja was one of two members who voted to remove both SROs in favor of using funds for alternatives such as peace rooms and counselors.
Goldenberg says he isn’t shocked about the decision, but thinks that people need to get to the root causes as to why they don’t want more restorative alternatives to police. Those in favor of keeping the SROs spoke on the safety the officers not only give to students, but to staff as well. Staff member Katharine Braggs says that the police officers are part of the community and already practice restorative justice.
When asked if he felt like organizers could have done more to impact the vote, Goldenberg said he felt that efforts were enough. “I just think it's gonna take more time. It's a very involved process, I don't think protests would have necessarily influenced opinion, I think it's more about having those hard conversations with people. It's about together experiencing alternative ways of conflict resolution, as well as experiencing firsthand the possibilities.”
Principal Antonio Ross, who voted to keep one SRO at the school, did not reply to a request for comment from the Herald. According to Principal Ross, CPS will supplement up to $85,000 per officer or $170,000 in total if the school removed both SROs.
The vote comes as CPS asked all 55 schools with SROs to map out a Whole School Safety Plan for the 2021-2022 school year. Goldenberg says CPS did not make it clear whether the safety plan would be something that will happen yearly for the schools who decided to keep both officers during this year’s vote, “So the schools that voted police out last year, they didn't get any resources in place of those SROs. So this is really an opportunity that was created in response to our campaign that we were part of this past summer.”