Chicago Public Schools Shares Comprehensive School Safety Plan and Resources for Staff and Families
18 August 2022
Safety videos, safety drills, student engagement programming part of preparing for safe school year
CHICAGO - As students prepare to return for classes next week, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) today rolled out its holistic school safety plans and resources and is conducting a school safety training exercise in collaboration with the Office of Emergency Management and Communications (OEMC), Chicago Police Department (CPD) and Chicago Fire Department (CFD) to ensure schools are prepared in the event of a schoolwide emergency.
“As a parent, you never stop thinking about your child’s safety, and as the CEO of CPS, I know that we have a sacred responsibility to the families of this District who entrust us with their students’ safety every single day,” said CEO Pedro Martinez. “We know that your children are excited about all they will discover this year in their classrooms. We also know that in order to focus on learning, our students need to feel safe at school.”
For many, concerns over horrific mass shootings — like the ones earlier this year in Uvalde, Texas and in nearby Highland Park — are front and center. CPS continues to partner with a wide variety of local health and safety partners to address safety and security through multiple strategies as pre-K-12 classes resume on Monday, August 22.
OEMC will activate its Emergency Operations Center to ensure coordination with CPS and various City agencies and monitor activity citywide during the first week of school as it has done in previous years.
CPS’ proactive approach to safety goes far beyond physical security issues. The District is equally invested in students’ emotional safety, and in building trusting relationships between students and adults in all schools.
In speaking with both students and parents, the District’s Safety and Security Office learned that the most common safety concerns that impact students physically and emotionally are incidents of bullying, social media threats, and concerns over getting to and from school safely, all of which CPS is addressing through its holistic safety plan.
Some of those CPS students and parents who shared their thoughts about student safety participated in videos being released on the Safety and Security webpage and in communications to families today. Within the videos, parents and students offer their perspectives about both what makes them anxious and what gives them comfort. The videos, which parents are being encouraged to watch with their children, offer an opportunity to learn about how CPS is addressing safety concerns while also noting that everyone has a role in safety and security.
Revamped Website, Increased Resources
CPS has overhauled its Safety and Security website cps.edu/safetyandsecurity to include helpful tools, including the new videos, and resources for families to provide a more in-depth view of school safety in CPS. The District has also created new safety training drills and videos for educators and staff.
“We are proud of the work we’re doing to keep students and staff safe, but we cannot do it alone,” said CPS Chief Safety and Security Officer Jadine Chou. ”School safety is everyone’s responsibility. Whether as parents, educators, or community members, speaking out when you see something that is concerning is the absolute best way to keep everyone in our school communities safe.”
In addition to leading annual school safety drills, CPS oversees a number of initiatives, programs and services related to safety and security as well as students’ emotional safety and well-being.
Safety and Security Investments
- Whole School Safety Initiative: Continuing this program, and reinvesting an approximate $3.3 million towards proactive safety resources such as restorative justice coordinators, climate coordinators, and more.
- Safe Passage Program: Through the Safe Passage program, trained professionals help steer students away from dangerous situations and help them get to-and-from school safely. CPS will invest $22 million in the program in SY23, including $1.5 million to engage Safe Passage staffers to support CPS Summer Programs and Chicago Park District programming so students can continue to have safe access to activities while out of school.
- School Security Resources: The SY23 budget contains $8 million — — for important safety technology equipment to support students’ physical safety on school grounds.
- Choose to Change: The District will continue to invest in and expand access to the Choose to Change initiative with $9.2 million in additional funds in SY23. Choose to Change is an evidence-based mentoring program designed to keep young people who are heavily impacted by violence and trauma on track to graduate from high school and stay out of the criminal justice system. This program connects these students with intensive advocate and wraparound supports, as well as trauma-informed therapy to help them live safe and successful lives. This program has been shown to reduce the likelihood of arrests for violent crime by nearly 50 percent, reduce the likelihood of in-school misconducts by 33 percent, and increase school attendance by a full week per year on average.
- “Back to Our Future” Initiative: With a new investment of $18 million (including a $16.2 million award from the Illinois Department of Human Services) CPS is piloting a new high touch intervention model to 1000 youth who have been disconnected from school for at least 12-18 months. CPS is partnering with community-based organizations and the University of Chicago Crime Lab and Education Lab to conduct extensive outreach to engage these hardest-to-reach students and provide comprehensive behavioral health services, mentoring and employment opportunities, and other wrap-around supports in order to build the skills needed in order to safely reconnect with their school communities.
Social-Emotional Support and Services
There is no denying that the COVID-19 pandemic, racial injustice, growing economic inequality, safety concerns, and many other issues have impacted the well-being and mental health of many CPS students, staff, and families. CPS is committed to providing robust social-emotional learning and engagement opportunities for all students from pre-K through high school, including mental health services and wraparound supports for those who are struggling.
This past school year, CPS prioritized social-emotional learning supports, including $16 million to stand up behavioral and mental health teams (BHTs) at every school.
The District’s SY23 budget builds upon this work, with $30 million in District-funded investments to support school-level programming. This adds the staffing and resources needed to foster positive school and classroom climate, trauma-engaged practices and restorative approaches to discipline, as well as other social and emotional skills instruction. Specific investments include:
- SEL curriculum: $5 million in new funding to support the implementation of a universal SEL curriculum for all elementary schools that includes bullying prevention and other key tactics
- Social workers: $5 million in additional funding for social workers to support students’ social and emotional wellbeing on a case-by-case basis.
- Counselor positions: $6 million to fund additional (second) counselor positions for 53 schools that need them most, based on the Opportunity Index and Violence Index, which help to measure the level of risk to students based on community.
- Mentorship and mental health supports and partnerships: $13 million for mentorship and mental health supports from highly qualified providers to provide school-level and regional services for students, as well as to expand the District’s partnership with the Center for Childhood Resilience at Lurie Children's Hospital, DePaul University, and other partners and vendors in this important work.
- Support for Students in Temporary Living Situations (STLS): $2 million to fund more support staff for Students in Temporary Living Situations (STLS), including counselors and bilingual education coordinators. These professionals will ensure that 35 schools will have full-time advocates and all other CPS schools will have one or more part-time liaisons to work with these students and their families.
- Student Re-Engagement: $12 million to increase enrollment and attendance, which have been impacted by the pandemic. CPS is investing resources in student re-engagement and truancy prevention — including home visits and other forms of direct contact — to bring eligible students back into the classroom.
CPS asks parents to partner with the District by alerting CPS to any safety concerns involving its students or schools. Parents or family members who witness any troubling behavior, or see something concerning on social media, are asked to please report it to the student’s school, or to the CPS Student Safety Center at firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as possible, and with as much detail as possible.
“By working together to support students, our District will continue to create learning environments where all students feel safe, and where there is a sense of belonging for every child,” Chou said. “We must keep safety - both physical and emotional - front of mind and a top priority every day.”