Our schools have become almost like satellite police stations.” – Steve Drizin
From Representing the Pipeline (7/31/10)
Policing Chicago Public SchoolsA Gateway to the School-to-Prison Pipeline” written by Mariame Kaba &Frank Edwards relies on data from the Chicago Police Department (CPD) to show (for the first time in seven years) the type of offenses and the demographics (gender, age and race) of the juveniles arrested on CPS property in calendar year 2010. We are limited because CPD reports data by police district rather than by individual school.  A FOIA request filed by First Defense Legal Aid to the Chicago Public Schools requesting school-level arrest data has gone unfulfilled even after several months.
In the 2003-2004 academic year, CPS had about 1,700 security staff, nearly tripling in number in five years.  We were unable to obtain the current number of security guards in CPS despite repeated requests.  We are sure that this number exceeds the 1,700 from the 2003-2004 academic year.  The presence of so many security staff and especially police officers in schools means that school discipline issues quickly turn into police records.
In our discussions about the school-to-prison pipeline, we need concrete examples of how the process works. As such, it is important to understand the role that police and security staff play in our schools.  Yet reports about police involvement in CPS have unfortunately not been readily available to the public.  There is no easily accessible citywide or statewide data that illustrate how many students are arrested in schools each year.  The last report that was written about the role of police in Chicago Public Schools was published in 2005 by the Advancement Project.  That report, “Education on Lockdown,” found that Chicago Public Schools (CPS) referred over 8,000 students to law enforcement in 2003. Forty percent of these referrals were for simple assault or battery with no serious injuries. Most of these cases were dismissed.
Our purpose in writing this report is to ensure that the public is informed about the scope and extent of policing in Chicago Public Schools.  We hope that this will galvanize educators, parents, students, policymakers and community members to advocate for a dramatic decrease of CPS’s reliance on law enforcement to address school discipline issues. Instead, we would like to see an increase in the use of restorative justice, which is an effective approach, to respond to student misbehavior in our schools.
In light of a push for budget austerity, limited resources should be re-directed away from policing and into affirming programs and opportunities for students.  This, we believe, will improve the overall well-being of all stakeholders in the educational system (most especially students). We also call on our city council to improve data transparency by passing an ordinance requiring CPS and CPD to report quarterly on the numbers of students arrested in the district.  Having timely and reliable information will support efforts to hold CPS and CPD accountable. Finally, we believe that student privacy should be protected rather than further eroded.  Current reporting practices between schools and law enforcement do not need to be reformed to increase the exchange of student information between these parties.
The key findings in this report include that:
There were 6,430 total arrests on Chicago Public School properties in 2010;
Of these, 5,574  were juvenile (under 18 years old) arrests on Chicago Public School properties. School-based arrests of youth accounted for 20 percent of all juvenile arrests (27,563) in the city of Chicago in 2010.
Black youth accounted for 74 percent of juvenile school-based arrests in 2010; while Latino youth represented 22.5 percent of these arrests. 45 percent of CPS students are African American while 41 percent are Latino (CPS, 2009). This suggests that black students are disproportionately targeted for arrest in CPS.
Nearly a third (27%) of  juvenile school-based arrest offenses issimple battery. This suggests that a significant number of CPS students are probably being arrested for fighting.
The highest aggregate numbers of juvenile school-based arrests are in the 4th, 6th, 8th, 22nd, and 5th police districts.  Together these five districts account for 39% of total juvenile school-based arrests on CPS property.
For any questions about this report, please contact Project NIA atprojectnia@hotmail.com.

Download “Policing Chicago Public Schools .”

Introduction (Excerpt)

Last summer, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) proposed purchasing new surveillance cameras for fourteen (14) high schools at a cost of $7 million dollars.  The Chicago Tribune reported that:
Footage from up to 80 high-definition cameras could be monitored by CPS and will be fed to a nearby police station, then linked into the citywide network of surveillance cameras. That network includes cameras operated by the Chicago Police Department, Office of Emergency Management and Communications and Chicago Transit Authority. Images from the cameras can also be viewed on officials’ cellphones[1].”
When news of this proposal surfaced, some critics suggested that at a time when CPS is facing a budget deficit of over $600 million dollars, such an investment in new surveillance equipment was questionable at best.  Some supporters argued that the district would eventually save money because the cameras would reduce the need for police officers in schools.  It fell to student Alan Zavala quoted in the Tribune article to point out the obvious: “They’re criminalizing us,” Zavala said. “They’re treating us like we’re in prison.” The preoccupation in many urban public schools with security — driven by fear and the obligation to keep our children relatively safe — has unfortunately engendered an explicit school-to-prison connection.
In the 21st century, it is verboten to question whether cops should even be in schools. Police officers in our schools have become synonymous with “safety.”  It is taken for granted that they belong in our classrooms.  In an interview about his school discipline research, sociologist Aaron Kupchick (2010) gives voice to this reality:
As part of my research, I interviewed students, and one of the questions that seemed like a good idea at the start was asking them whether they liked having the SROs [school resource officers] in their schools. For me, having gone to public schools without cops, this really seemed odd to me, to put police officers in peaceful schools. And the students were puzzled by this question, and I quickly realized that it makes no sense to them because it’s all they’ve ever known. It’s completely normal. It makes about as much sense as if you asked them, “Should your school have a principal[2]?”
Police officers are considered so essential that when CPS gave high schools the opportunity this summer to exchange their police officers for $25,000 in return, only four (4) schools gave up both of their assigned officers while a dozen (12) gave up one of their cops[3].  In 2010, there were 122 high schools in the CPS system.  This means that only 3 percent of schools were interested in giving up both of their assigned officers while another 10 percent were willing to part with only one.
The Chicago Police Department (CPD) charges CPS $25 million a year for two police officers at each high school. But because the district hasn’t paid the full amount in previous years, it will have to pay $70 million in the 2011 school year.  CPS estimates that it costs $75,000 a year to have a police officer stationed at a school for daily 8 hour shifts.  A coalition of student researchers, called Voices of Youth in Chicago Education (VOYCE), found that:  “In 2010, Chicago Public Schools spent$51.4 million on school-based security guards, about 15 times more than the $3.5 million it spent on college and career coaches.[4]” As education budgets shrink, it makes sense to question schools’ heavy investment in policing, surveillance and security
By Rachel-Marie Carson Williams

Though school police officers date back to the 1950s, they did not become prevalent until the 1990s.  A spate of school shootings in the 90s convinced the Federal government to allocate resources to local school districts for the hiring of law enforcement officials.  Today about 35 percent of elementary, middle and high schools have police officers.[5] As a result, many of our schools have become the gateway for young people’s involvement in the juvenile and adult criminal legal systems.
In the last 15 years, advocates, students, educators, and researchers have pointed out the existence of a school-to-prison pipeline[6] (STPP). The STPP describes how harsh school discipline policies and law enforcement policies intersect to feed young people into the prison system. Police officers play a critical role in this pipeline and many of them seem to recognize this fact. A school police officers’ union in California recently created an uproar by designing and selling t-shirts depicting a young boy behind prison bars with the words: “U Raise Em, We Cage Em[7].”  The local community was rightly incensed by this; yet it should not have come as a surprise that cops see their role in schools as arresting and incarcerating young people.
Youth Art from Suspension Stories
We can be fooled into believing that schools with metal detectors, surveillance cameras, and police officers feel safe to students, teachers, and staff.  However, data from the Consortium on Chicago School Research (CCSR) suggests something different:
it is the quality of relationships between staff and students and between staff and parents that most strongly defines safe schools. Indeed, disadvantaged schools with high-quality relationships actually feel safer than advantaged schools with low-quality relationships[8].”
In addition, the presence of police officers in our schools often has negative ramifications for students. A new national study by the Justice Policy Institute titled “Education Under Arrest” makes a convincing case that:
“…when schools have law enforcement on site, students are more likely to get arrested by police instead of having discipline handled by school officials. This leads to more kids being funneled into the juvenile justice system, which is both expensive and associated with a host of negative impacts on youth[9].”

[2] Sullivan, J (8/29/10) – America’s real school safety problem.http://www.salon.com/2010/08/29/homeroom_security_ext2010/
[3] Karp, Sarah. “Citing Safety, Most High Schools Keeping Police.” Catalyst Chicago (10/28/11) – http://www.catalyst-chicago.org/notebook/2011/10/28/citing-safety-most-high-schools-keeping-police
[4] Voices of Youth in Chicago Education (2011). “Failed Policies, Broken Futures: The True Cost of Zero Tolerance in Chicago.http://www.voyceproject.org/sites/default/files/VOYCE%20report%202011.pdf
[5] Ramirez, Rosa (Nov 2011). “Some Oakland parents question need for school police.” http://www.healthycal.org/archives/6062
[6] The “School to Prison Pipeline” describes the reality that many young people are being pushed out of school and into the juvenile and adult legal systems because of harsh discipline policies, high stakes testing, and social oppression.
[7] Sacramento Bee (11/15/11). Twin Rivers Police Association stops sales of controversial T-shirts. http://www.sacbee.com/2011/11/01/4020655/twin-rivers-police-association.html#ixzz1ceD29OXC
[8] Steinberg, M., Allensworth, E. and David W. Johnson (May, 2011). Student and Teacher Safety in Chicago Public Schools: The Roles of Community Context and School Social Organization.http://ccsr.uchicago.edu/publications/SAFETY%20IN%20CPS.pdf
[9] Petteruti, Amanda (Nov 2011). Education Under Arrest: The Case Against Police in Schools. http://www.justicepolicy.org/research/3177