The brutal murders of George Floyd, Breona Taylor, and countless other unarmed Black people have sparked a national movement to defund the police and invest in community care, rather than armed law enforcement. An obvious place to start is with police contracts with public school systems—police do not make schools any safer, but they do increase the likelihood of a minor being criminally charged. Chicago Public Schools had an opportunity to terminate their $33 million contract with the Chicago Police Department this Wednesday. Community organizations came together to pressure the school board into doing the right thing, but Miguel del Valle, Sendhil Revuluri, Dwayne Truss and Lucino Sotelo all voted to keep the contract. These four members of Chicago’s school board voted to spend millions in public money to continue to harass our children. They are an enemy to every student, parent, and teacher in the city of Chicago.
Police in schools, or “school resource officers,” are far more likely to be in the poorest and least white schools in a community. The schools most likely to have police on campus are schools where at least 75% of students are on free or reduced lunch. These schools are not any more likely than schools in rich communities to have crime issues on campus, but students at policed schools are five times more likely to be arrested for “disorderly conduct”—behavior that is disruptive, but not violent. School districts contracting with police departments results in poor children and children of color being arrested for crimes that rich white children are never arrested for. It is a clear example of the school-to-prison pipeline. And it is what del Valle, Revuluri, Truss, and Sotelo all voted to keep.
Minneapolis, Denver, Oakland, and other cities have already voted to end contracts between the police and school systems. Why can’t Chicago? The same reason why most people do not know the names of their enemies: del Valle, Revuluri, Truss, and Sotelo. They weren’t elected by the people. Youth organizations, socialist organizations, and racial justice organizations across Chicago organized to sever the contract. 120 people gave public comment in support. Hundreds of people marched around the school board to demand the defunding. Youth protesting outside of del Valle’s house were so loud they could be heard throughout the meeting. The people had their voices heard but the school board members were not listening. 90% of school boards in America are elected but Chicago’s board is still appointed by the mayor, without input from the community, teachers unions, or even the City Council. The appointed school board is not accountable to the students, teachers, or parents who learn and serve in our school system; they are accountable only to Lori Lightfoot. The school board does not make its decisions based on what the people of Chicago want because their job does not depend on the approval of the people of Chicago. Lori Lightfoot is against defunding the police, and so the contract stays in place.
However, this fight is not over. The final vote on severing the contract with Chicago Police Department was 4 to 3, much closer than most votes from the appointed board. Labor and youth organizations have already pledged to keep fighting, heartened by the fact that three members of the board—Elizabeth Todd-Breland, Luisiana Melendez and Amy Rome—were willing to break with their colleagues and vote to end the contract. Todd-Breland, Melendez, and Rome all took the correct stance on this vote; they sided with the people over the mayor. This fight is not over and it is likely that a similar vote will come to the Chicago school board in the future. This means that del Valle, Revuluri, Truss, and Sotelo may have an opportunity to change their minds and stand with the people. Until then, they are four enemies. Every student that gets Tazed at school. Every black girl who is dragged down the stairs at her school. Every time one of these horrible incidents happens in the future, it will be the fault of del Valle, Revuluri, Truss, and Sotelo. They are responsible. You may not have elected them, but you should never forget their names.