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Why one South Side Chicago high school voted to keep police officers on campus

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The school council at Lindblom Math and Science Academy voted 6-4 to keep police officers on its campus.

Courtesy of Block Club Chicago

This story was reported by Block Club Chicago, a nonprofit news outlet covering Chicago neighborhoods.

Police officers will remain at Lindblom Math and Science Academy in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood after its local school council voted 6–4 to keep officers on campus Monday evening.

Lindblom, 6130 S. Wolcott Ave., is among the numerous Chicago high schools that have opted in recent weeks to keep school resource officers in place. Two council members abstained from voting, citing their desire for the vote to reflect students’ interests.

The school’s student committee voted in support of keeping officers on campus prior to the council’s vote, Principal Wayne Bevis said. He said the officers currently on campus are “phenomenal” and actively involved with the student body.

Chicago’s school board declined last month to remove police officers from all public schools after hours of emotional debate and public comment. The board is expected to vote on whether to renew its $33 million contract with Chicago Police at an Aug. 26 board meeting.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and schools Chief Janice Jackson declined to make any sweeping decisions about resource officers, instead mandating local school councils to make the final call.

Just three schools — Roberto Clemente High School, Benito Juarez Community Academy and Northside College Prep — have voted to remove their officers from campus so far.

The rest of Chicago’s 70-plus schools with a police presence have less than two weeks remaining to vote on the issue.

The fight to reform police should take place in City Hall, not within school councils, Lindblom council chair Anthony Smith said.

He said much of the dissent against keeping officers was based on “theoretical” and “philosophical” issues of policing that did not account for the environment at Lindblom.

“It’s really a slanted argument,” Smith said. “There’s no way to really come to a conclusion unless you want to … make it specifically about Lindblom and not about the broader perspective.”

About 60 people attended Monday’s virtual meeting. During a public comment session, parents and community members largely asked the council to remove officers.

The results of Monday’s comment session, however, were not reflective of an informal survey of staff, parents and students conducted in the weeks leading up to the vote.

More than half of Lindblom staff and more than three-quarters of parents who responded were in favor of keeping officers on campus, as were about 43 percent of students.

Lindblom’s student community was divided on the issue, student representative Meredith Joncha said.

“The people that want the SROs cut from Lindblom are the loudest,” she said. “The people that don’t and feel [safe with SROs] are the quietest, yet their numbers are still shown.”

Student opinions depend heavily on whether they have a relationship with the SROs or not, she said. Though Joncha said she was “split in the middle” immediately prior to the vote, she ultimately voted to remove officers.

Joseph Williams, a newly elected parent representative on Lindblom’s council, voted to remove officers after telling Block Club in July he was leaning toward doing so. He repeatedly called on funding for officers to be reallocated for counselors and support systems for diverse learners.

However, schools who vote to remove police will not be able to use the funds for other purposes.

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