No Cops in Schools – Madison Hammett – Health & Medicine Policy Research Group

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No Cops in Schools – Madison Hammett

July 23, 2020 Written By: Madison Hammett

The Illinois ACEs Response Collaborative is compelled to speak out about the presence of police in Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and in all schools across our state through the use of School Resource Officers (SROs). Together with organizations like Assata’s Daughters, Black Lives Matter Chicago, Brave Space Alliance, Community Organizing and Family Issues, Good Kids Mad City, No Cop Academy, SOUL Chicago, and VOYCE, we demand racial justice and safety for all Black and Latino CPS students, and Chicagoans of all ages. This vision can only be achieved through the removal of police from schools, and investment in healing-centered and trauma-informed services.

More than 300 Black Americans are killed by police every year in the United States, and these killings have a direct adverse impact on the mental health of Black Americans[i]. Research on police killings in the United States shows that persistent exposure to police violence against Black people leads to decreased GPAs for Black students, increased incidence of emotional disturbance, and lower rates of high school completion and college enrollment[ii].

At the Illinois ACEs Response Collaborative, we know that traumatic experiences in childhood can lead to adverse health outcomes, such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and mental illness throughout the life course. Health is not the only outcome affected by these childhood experiences —ACEs have also been linked to lower graduation rates, unemployment, and incarceration[iii].

The over-policing of Black and brown students is a traumatizing practice that can have lifelong impacts on children’s health and social outcomes. Nationally, more than 70% of students that are involved in “in-school” arrests or referred to law enforcement are Black or Latinx. This has a direct link to the 1 in 3 Black men and 1 in 6 Latino men who will be incarcerated at some point in their lives, and the 68% of men in prison who do not have a high school diploma[iv].

Here in Chicago, CPS has budgeted more than $33 million dollars for SROs but only $8.67 million dollars for school counseling services. Meanwhile, Black CPS students are detained at a rate four times that of their white peers, and more than 95% of police incidents on CPS property involve students of color, including children as young as six years old[v].

At a time when COVID-19 is disproportionately affecting Black and Latinx Chicagoans[vi] and the nation faces a reckoning on white supremacy, the Collaborative believes that CPS should be leaders in healing, not retraumatizing students. That is why we stand with Students Strike Back and CPS Alumni for Abolition in their demand for CPS to terminate its contract with the Chicago Police Department and remove police officers from schools[vii]. We join their call for more trauma-informed services for CPS students including social workers, counselors, and restorative justice practitioners.

We condemn Mayor Lightfoot and the CPS Board of Education for their refusal to act in the best interest of students’ health and well-being by continuing to support policing students rather than providing restorative and trauma-informed practices that build resilience and promote thriving[viii]. Mayor Lightfoot and the Board also restrict schools and Local School Councils (LSC) from redistributing funds from SROs to these alternative practices, limiting schools’ ability to invest in creating safe and supportive environments[ix]. This is a stark reminder that it is not just individuals we must overcome in the struggle for equity and trauma-informed transformation, but entire systems and structures molded by centuries of white supremacy and the criminalization of Black Americans. The trauma these students experience at the hands of police does not exist in a vacuum, nor does the system that created it.

We also applaud LSCs like those belonging to Northside College Prep and Benito Juarez Community Academy who have listened to the voices of their students and communities and voted to remove officers from their schools[x].

We believe that our schools should foster safety and build resilience in children, not traumatize them through criminalization and fear. In our vision of a trauma-informed Chicago and Illinois that is not only resilient, but thriving, we join the call for police-free schools, and demand schools that provide safe, trauma-informed environments for children and families across the lifespan.

 

[i]  Bor, Jacob et al. (2018). Police killings and their spillover effects on the mental health of Black Americans: a population-based, quasi-experimental study. The Lancet, Volume 392, Issue 10144, 302 – 310. Retrieved fromhttps://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(18)31130-9/fulltext

[ii] Ang, Desmond. (2020). The effects of police violence on inner-city students. Quarterly Journal of Economics (Conditional Acceptance). Retrieved from https://scholar.harvard.edu/files/ang/files/PoliceViolence_Ang.pdf

[iii] Illinois ACEs Response Collaborative (2020). Overview. Retrieved from http://hmprg.org/programs/illinois-aces-response-collaborative/

[iv] Community Coalition of South LA (2019). Are our children being pushed into prison? Retrieved from http://www.fixschooldiscipline.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/fix.jpg

[v] Cops Out of CPS (2020), #CopsOutCPS: A report on why it’s time for Chicago Public Schools to divest from the Chicago Police Department. Retrieved from https://copsoutcps.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/CopsOutCPS-Report-6.22.20.pdf

[vi] Corley, Cheryl (2020). Chicago tackles COVI-19 disparities in hard-hit Black and Latino neighborhoods. National Public Radio. June 9, 2020. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/2020/06/09/869074151/chicago-tackles-covid-19-disparities-in-hard-hit-black-and-latino-neighborhoods

[vii] Students Strike Back (2020). #PoliceFreeSchools. Retrieved from https://grassrootscollaborative.salsalabs.org/policefreeschools2020/index.html

[viii] Issa, Nader (2020). Chicago school board votes 4-3 to keep police contract- for now. Chicago Sun-Times, June 24, 2020. Retrieved from https://chicago.suntimes.com/education/2020/6/24/21301349/chicago-public-schools-police-cps-vote-cops

[ix] Masterson, Matt (2020) Lightfoot rules out removing police officers from Chicago schools. WTTW News. June, 5, 2020. Retrieved from https://news.wttw.com/2020/06/05/lightfoot-rules-out-removing-police-officers-chicago-schools

[x] Masterson, Matt (2020) Northside College Prep LSC votes to pull School Resource Officers. WTTW News. July 8, 2020. Retrieved from https://news.wttw.com/2020/07/08/northside-college-prep-lsc-votes-pull-school-resource-officers