Youth activists could be heard chanting outside of Chicago Public School (CPS) Board President Miguel Del Valle’s home on June 24 during a six-hour long Zoom call to determine if the board would vote to remove Chicago Police Department (CPD) officers from schools.

“We demand CPD out of CPS,” they chanted. 

At least 2,000 people tuned in on Youtube to watch the CPS board virtual Zoom meeting, where it was set to vote on a motion to terminate a $33 million contract with CPD. The vote was originally supposed to happen next month, but the decision to move the vote earlier was made to give the district enough time to have safety measures in place in time for schools to open. 

While youth activists protested outside Del Valle’s Belmont Cragin home, and in the streets of downtown Chicago, the six-hour meeting ended in a 4-3 vote and the motion failed. 

Board members Luisiana Melendez, Elizabeth Todd-Breland and Amy Rome voted in favor of the motion and members Sendhil Revuluri, Dwayne Truss, Lucino Sotelo and Del Valle voted against it.

“We were out there for six hours demanding cops out of CPS,” said youth activist Denise Carmona, a recent CPS graduate from Thomas Kelly College Prep. “I’m exhausted but I’m still optimistic.”

On Wednesday, Carmona was one of many students present at the protest planned by 11 organizations, including Students Strike Back, Assata’s Daughters and Black Lives Matter Chicago. The list of organizations and their demands, including the removal of police officers from schools are listed on the #CopsOutCPS website created by Black and Brown students from CPS. 

Those demands were expected to be met at the CPS board meeting.

“The split was kind of predictable,” said Alycia Kamil, a Kenwood Academy High School alum and youth activist with GoodKids MadCity. She organized and led the protest on June 23 with fellow youth activist Diego Garcia outside of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s residence the night before  the board meeting.

The board is made up entirely of members appointed by Mayor Lightfoot in June 2019. Community activists have also been fighting for an elected school board, a promise that Mayor Lightfoot campaigned on during election season. 

“What’s interesting is that all the women on the board voted yes on the motion while all the men voted no,” Kamil said. “It shows the connection between patriarchy and policing.” 

During the meeting, board members had the opportunity to discuss the motion before voting. Board member Sotelo expressed the need for school resource officers as a means to addressing the violence that he said oftentimes leads to students dropping out.

Sotelo also said he received 30,000 emails, the vast majority of which were in support of removing police from schools. But he still felt that students who are and have been directly impacted by these issues—like him—were not being heard.

“Guess what,” he said “Those kids do not speak up, they just drop out.”

His argument was similar to the other board members who voted against the motion using mostly anecdotal evidence and sharing their own personal experiences as former CPS students. 

On the other hand, board members Elizabeth Todd-Breland, Amy Rome and Luisiana Melendez made data and research-based arguments as to why a police officer presence in schools is harmful to students. In the motion they presented, they included research, which found that between 2012 and 2018, Black students accounted for 66% of police notifications in CPS, even though they comprised less than 36% of the student population in CPS.

Their research also pointed out that the rate of school-based notifications for Black girls in CPS were seven times the rate of notifications for white girls. 

In the motion, they cited their research references: the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law’s 2017 report entitled “Handcuffs in the Hallways: the state of policing in Chicago Public Schools,” the Citizens Police Data Project by the Invisible Institute and the #CopsOutCPS report.

“I want to note that Black and Brown youth in Chicago have produced research on this topic and have been organizing for well over a decade to remove police from schools while also developing restorative alternatives that support the holistic development of young people,” said Todd-Breland. She also noted that she’s been following the fight to remove CPD from CPS since 2007.

Her sentiments echoed those of CPS students who throughout the meeting continued to protest outside of Del Valle’s residence. 

“We’re still going to keep fighting,” said CPS alum and youth activist Citlali Perez. “We know that other cities are fighting to remove police from their schools and we’re going to keep doing that too.” 

During a press briefing on June 25 with CPS CEO Janice Jackson, the pool reporter asked Mayor Lightfoot about her reaction to the board’s 4-3 vote and whether she still supports implementing an elected school board.

“There’s ongoing discussion about what that would look like and we’ll continue to have those discussions with our various stakeholders,” Lightfoot said about an elected school board. She also noted that she was happy with the board’s decision.

“Every school community is unique,” she continued. “It is not for me as the mayor, and Dr. Jackson as the CEO, to dictate to local schools what resources they need. Some choose to have the SROs. Some choose not to. But it’s got to be based upon what the unique circumstances are at the local level in each school and making sure that we’re continuing to empower those local school councils.”

Youth activists have already begun planning next steps for their demands. There are currently 14 alderpeople who have co-sponsored the #FreePoliceSchools ordinance and introduced it in the City Council. A joint meeting between the Committees of Education and Child Development and Public Safety to review the ordinance is expected to take place on July 2.  

There is also CPS’ $33 million contract with CPD that is set to expire in August, which means the board will have to vote again in either July or August on whether to continue the SRO program. 

The next Chicago Public School Board meeting is set for Wednesday, July 22 at 10:30 a.m.