The People is our section for all opinions concerning Black Chicago. In this opinion piece, George Washington High School junior and student LSC member Trinity Colon encourages adults to listen to the youth during the #CopsOutCPS movement.

Recently, the movement around police-free schools has spread like wildfire, and right now Chicago is engulfed in its flames. Chicago Public Schools (CPS) students have spoken — we’re done with Chicago Police Department (CPD) officers being inserted into our schools. We know we’re speaking our truth, but too often, it feels like nobody is listening.

I’m a young, unapologetic Latina girl living on the South Side of Chicago. I’m a junior at George Washington High School, where 90% of our demographic is Hispanic, and I’m the student representative on our Local School Council (LSC) this year.

Many LSCs across Chicago have been in the process of deciding to keep or remove Student Resource Officers (SROs), which, honestly, is just a sugar-coated way of saying police. Students have been pushing CPS to remove police from our schools since they only further criminalize youth of color. Police in school have a clear record of discrimination, specifically against Black students and students with disabilities. (Editor’s note: Out of more than 70 CPS schools, at least 19 LSCs have voted to keep police in their schools).

Currently, Black students make up 35.9% of all CPS students, yet 65.7% were the subject of police notifications (2011-2018); students with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) make up only 15% of the CPS population, but more than 30% of police incidents involve these students. (Source: #CopsOutCPS Report).

We aren’t protecting and caring for our Black students, and that’s a problem. Not only is racism a clear factor in this discussion, but with it comes serious adultism. Adults are refusing to acknowledge the voices of young Black and Brown people when we say how having CPD in schools makes us feel unsafe and afraid. It doesn’t matter if we’re calm and collected or if we’re screaming from the top of our lungs: they dismiss what we’re saying because of their ideals.

Being a student advocate for my school’s movement (shameless self-promo: follow @CPDoutofGW on Instagram) and a member of my school’s LSC, I’ve well-experienced people trying to exclude me from this conversation. Adults in my community are trying to suppress a vocal, passionate youth who is fighting for racial justice. 

Adult community members constantly repeat that I, the student representative on the LSC, am “not allowed” to vote in the SRO decision, despite the LSC stating that I would be able to vote early on in the process. They try to erase me from the conversation, even with knowing that policies state I’m allowed to vote and what they’re saying is incorrect. Constantly being torn down, be it fact or fiction, cuts deep. It hurts knowing that my neighbors don’t stand by me and want to shut me down as I fight against the injustices our Black and Brown youth face.

Trinity Colon speaking at a #CopsOutCPS protest at George Washington High School on Aug. 2, 2020 | Photo by Óscar Sánchez
Young folks standing in solidarity at a #CopsOutCPS protest at George Washington High School on Aug. 2, 2020 | Photo by Óscar Sánchez

As a primarily Hispanic community, we need to come together and address the fact that too many of our Black peers feel unwelcome in the school. Within my school, George Washington High School, 5% of our students are Black, yet 41% of instances with police notifications involve Black students. (Source: Chicago Public Schools SY 2019-2020). We’re creating a hostile, unsafe environment for our Black peers by allowing CPD to constantly criminalize them. 

Too often our community only focuses on issues that affect Latinos, and these are serious, valid issues that need to be addressed. However, we need to keep that same energy when it comes to the injustices occurring within other marginalized groups of people. We must strive to protect and value all of our students; we can’t cherry-pick which minority groups we’re going to fight for.

Nonetheless, I still love my South Side community and the people in it. It just makes me angry that we are nonchalantly normalizing anti-Blackness and adultism in our predominantly Latino community. These awful ideas are deeply ingrained into us, and it’s due to the systemic racism that stems from things such as a police presence in our school. However, as a community, we can make an active choice to resist and challenge these concepts. 

We must break the chains that racism and adultism hold on us and our environment. While that’s a journey far from the end, abolishing the SRO program in CPS is a step in the right direction. 

My school’s LSC will be voting on this issue on Wednesday, August 12th at 6 p.m. Although it won’t automatically fix the racist disparities our youth face at school, we must continue to fight these long, difficult battles as we work towards dismantling the systemic racism that’s deeply rooted in Chicago’s education system, piece by piece.

This story has been updated to reflect the start time for the LSC meeting at George Washington High School.

Headshot of Trinity Colon
is a junior at George Washington High School, LSC student representative, activist, and community organizer based out of South Chicago.