For Carisa Parker, the School Resource Officer (SRO) at her children’s school is her only sense of safety. As a mother of four children, including two high school students currently attending her alma mater, Morgan Park High School, she’s in support of keeping police in schools if it means maintaining a safe and healthy school environment. 

“One of the things I appreciate about Morgan Park is that when I drop my kids off in the morning, I feel safe knowing that there are people there who love and care about them,” said Parker. “If a situation occurs, there is someone there with a direct line to the police.” 

Parker is also chair of the Local School Council (LSC) at Morgan Park High School, which voted unanimously on July 23 to keep their SROs. Her concerns for removing police from schools echoed concerns from parents district wide who feared for the safety of their children if they had to return to a school with no police presence.

The vote to keep SROs in Morgan Park High School also re-establishes a personal sense of safety Parker has developed with police officers since her kids have been in elementary school.

“When my daughter was in 8th grade, she got into a fight with another girl,” shared Parker. “The principal, who was African American, called the police on my daughter and I was extremely taken aback by that because I had been a long-standing parent who was active at the school.” 

Participating in school activities as a CPS parent has been a priority for Parker, like many parents who wish to have a good relationship with the school in which their kids spend a majority of their day in. 

“I felt that [the principal] could have called me before she called the police,” said Parker. “But once the police came, it felt like they were trying to actually resolve the issue, whereas the administrators were only trying to punish.” 

Since then, Parker has only had positive experiences with police officers in school settings. Her oldest son became a Chicago police officer in 2019. 

The SRO program has been under scrutiny for several years by youth activists who have been protesting and demanding #CopsOutCPS. They’d rather see the money from that program used to provide more resources for their communities instead. On Wed. Aug. 6, CPS announced that schools will not be charged for SROs as districts transition into full remote learning for the fall

Since June 9, 17 LSCs have voted to remove their SROs for the upcoming 2020-2021 school year, while 55 voted to retain them, including Morgan Park High School. Although Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Janice Jackson and the CPS Board of Education all agreed to let each LSC decide to retain or remove SROs, the board is set to vote on whether to renew an expiring and newly reformed $15-million contract with CPD for its SRO program on Wednesday, Aug. 26.


On Aug. 21, youth organizers on the West Side of Chicago led a march to board member Dwayne Truss’s house to demand that he vote against renewing the contract. 

“I’ll let you know what my vote is on the 26th,” Truss said. When asked if he attended any of the LSC meetings, he said no. “That decision is up to the communities.” 

If the board decides to remove SROs, the decision can override votes from LSCs who voted to retain them. On the other hand, if the board decides to retain SROs, LSCs who chose to remove them can still do so.

The problem with delegating responsibility to LSCs to decide whether to retain their SROs is the question of if they were equipped to do so in the first place. 

More than 70 LSCs have met in the last two months to discuss and vote on the matter. Votes were divisive across schools and several LSCs split on the issue despite many students demanding police-free schools. Many parents were either misinformed on the matter or did not know of an alternative plan for safety.

However, for some parents like Sandra Guerrero, LSC meetings have been inaccessible. As a Spanish-speaking mother of three children attending Richard J. Daley Academy in the Back of the Yards neighborhood, it’s difficult for her to understand discussions on the matter considering most LSC meetings operated entirely in English. 

“It’s important to me for there to be security and protection,” said Guerrero in Spanish. “It helps if police officers are there to respond if anything happens.”

Admittedly, she was not fully aware of the movement for police-free schools and did not know about alternative plans for safety, including trauma-informed and restorative justice practices.  

Guerrero is curious about the issue of police in schools because she’s been eyeing which high school to send her kids to after this next school year at Daley. One of the schools her kids have the option of attending is Back of the Yards College Prep (BOYCP), which voted 5-6 to remove its SROs on August 10.

But currently CPS is not allowing LSCs who voted to remove their SROs to absorb the money back into their school budget. Instead, officials have said that the money will go towards balancing the district’s budget. 

When asked if her opinions on removing SROs would change if LSCs actually received the funds that would typically pay for them, Guerrero eyed the possibility of being in favor. 

“It would be nice to have money for more [counselors and social workers] at these schools,” she said. “But that’s not the reality.”

Carisa Parker posing at her alma mater, Morgan Park High School. Photo by ANF Chicago // The TRiiBE

A lack of resources is something almost all LSC members could agree was a problem. But whether or not removing police officers from schools would fix that was where lines were crossed. 

“Of course, we’d love to have more counselors in our schools,” said Parker. “But we have the SROs and you can never have too many mentors at a school.” 

When asked what resources she would love to see at her kid’s school, Parker described wanting to see more extracurricular activities such as arts programs and sports. 

“Arts programs are the ones that get cut first,” said Parker. “We need more job readiness programs too to help students who might not be interested in going to college. We could also use more therapists and funding for sports so that students can have something to do after school.”

is a freelance writer for The TRiiBE.