The uprising against the racist police brutality in the wake of George Floyd’s killing earlier this year has put policy recommendations like defunding police in closer to the realm of reality and not just in the imaginations of Black activists.
But the age-old problem of addressing issues that are disproportionately harming Black people by producing non-specific solutions aimed at a vast and amorphous ‘everyone’ is still present.
This phenomenon can be seen in the fact that of the 17 schools in Chicago’s Public School system who voted recently to remove cops from their campuses, almost none have a majority-Black student population.
Ironically, the schools that voted to keep police—or School Resource Officers (SROs) as they are called in that capacity—are those that are largely attended by Black children, reports WBEZ, meaning 77% of Chicago’s Black public school students will still have cops at their schools.
Alycia Kamil is one of the youth activists who spent much of the summer at rallies calling for the defunding of police and for them to be removed from schools.
She called the vote tallies disheartening. Kamil graduated last year from Kenwood Academy, a school where 87% of the students and the LSC unanimously voted to keep SROs.
“If [the police] are still going to be in schools with the people that they target the most, that they abuse the most, then there isn’t a win for the immediate marginalized group that is most affected by the issue,” she said.
The schools that opted to remove cops were those with majority-Latino populations and those with more mixed demograhics.
The votes to keep SROs in the majority-Black campuses came from local school councils who took into consideration feedback from school staff members, who reportedly argued that they depend on police to make the environment inside the schools feel safe.
“Do we know that there is a war zone going on around the corner from the school?” said a principal at a school on the South Side who asked for cops to be kept in her institution. “I am paranoid about that.”
Another staff member at the same school supported keeping cops there, saying that they were needed since the school has been unable to get a full-time social worker for their student body despite trying to get one for years.
Meanwhile, civil rights advocates in the city pointed to research that encountering police correlates with stress and anxiety for Black students, who are frequently funneled into the prison system for low-level offenses.
Data also shows that police in Chicago disproportionately get notifications from schools to deal with students with disabilities, said Karen Sheley of the ACLU to WBEZ.
Last year, a SRO at a Chicago school on the city’s West Side dragged a special needs Black student down a set of concrete stairs and used a stun gun on her because he caught her with a cell phone.
The 16-year-old girl was charged with felonies related to the incident, which were later dropped when surveillance footage of the cop’s brutal treatment of the student caused outcry.
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