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CPS, Community Groups Provide Recommendations For Trauma-informed, Whole-school Safety

24 March 2021

Collaborative Effort Developed Trauma-Informed Whole School Safety Programs as Alternatives to the School Resource Officer Program 

CPS Office of Communications

Phone: 773-553-1620
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CHICAGO - An unprecedented partnership between Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and five community partner organizations has concluded the first phase of a Whole School Safety Plan, which provides school communities a roadmap for considering alternatives to School Resource Officers (SROs). The Phase 1 recommendations will be co-presented by CPS and a representative from each of the five community partners at the March 24, 2021 CPS Board of Education meeting.

“This community-led process has driven a thorough and open conversation around the complexities of reimagining safety,” said CPS CEO Dr. Janice K. Jackson. “In coordination with our community partners, we have developed an approach that recognizes safety encompasses not only physical safety, but also emotional and relational safety as well. Through this process, we can now help schools review their strategies and refine their safety plans in a manner that goes beyond previous efforts.”

During the first phase, the community partners, Voices of Youth in Chicago Education (VOYCE), Mikva Challenge, Community Organizing and Family Issues, The ARK of St. Sabina and BUILD Inc., with facilitation from independent consulting firm Embark Strategies and technical support from the Civic Consulting Alliance, met with students, parents, educators, principals, Local School Councils (LSCs) and community members to gather their input on school safety needs and their vision for alternatives to the school resource officer program. The groups came up with their final recommendations after holding 18 stakeholder meetings, engaging 676 participants from across the city.

“Having community input that was centered on youth voices helped create a space for young people to feel heard in this process,” said Donte Hullum, VOYCE Youth leader and Sophomore at Simeon High School. “We are also going to hold a webinar and other efforts to help support the planning process for the local schools, which gives us a better chance to create safe spaces in schools that do not rely on policing.”

The result of this effort is a set of recommendations that will then go to school administrators, Local School Councils and school communities as part of a comprehensive planning guide for each of the 55 schools that still have SROs. Schools will use this guide to help create their own Whole School Safety Committees that will reimagine safety for their schools. For the second phase, a core team has been developed made up of current CPS students, CPS teachers/staff members, COFI-Power PAC, VOYCE, principals from schools that currently have SROs and network leadership. This core team is currently developing an inclusive guide to be given to the school-level Whole School Safety Committee team members as they begin a process to assess their needs and develop their customized Whole School Safety Plans. 

Along with this set of recommendations and inclusive guide, the 55 schools will be given different district and local support for planning design. Among these supports include (1) a youth-led district wide training, led by VOYCE, which will be available to youth who are a part of their school’s Whole School Safety Committee and Local School Councils and will focus on youth leadership development and governance; (2) support from  CPS subject matter experts from the Office of Social Emotional Learning, Office of Safety and Security, and Office of Equity; (3) coaching by members of the Trauma Responsive Educational Practices (TREP) Project at the University of Chicago; and (4) a district-wide webinar in April 2021 that will be open to the public and further present both the framework and recommendations of the Whole School Safety effort.

“As we engaged in the community engagement process of Phase 1 we confirmed that transparent and robust outreach should not be the exception or simply a special project,” said Lynn Morton, Co-Chair Emeritus of POWER-PAC IL a project of COFI. “Community engagement should be the norm that cannot be left behind and should be the roadmap for Phase 2 and beyond.” 

The 55 Whole School Safety Committees will be asked to consider recommendations that cover the following seven strategies:

  • Implement holistic restorative practices: Integrate restorative justice practices that are in line with world-class restorative justice training standards, such as peace rooms, peace circles, peer juries, de-escalation training, and a new restorative justice trained, designated staff or community practitioner to coordinate and support restorative practices across the school.

  • Increase access to social emotional learning (SEL) and mental health resources: Assess school capacity and access to full-time mental health professionals who use culturally affirming practices and work to collaborate with teachers to embed SEL programming into the school curriculum (including programs led by community partners who serve that school).

  • Create safe and welcoming  physical school environments: Pay attention to the physical condition of the school and engage students, parents and community members with a welcoming and inclusive greeting process.

  • Increase investments in student leadership and decision-making processes: Promote activities to support student growth by establishing meaningful voting roles in school governance councils and free access to student-designed extracurricular programs.

  • Increase authentic parent and community engagement opportunities: Promote meaningful engagement opportunities for parents and community members as partners and decision-makers.

  • Provide additional school-level support for trauma-informed crisis intervention: Increase capacity and training of behavioral intervention staff to respond to incidents without causing greater harm or trauma to those involved. 
  • Promote and enhance behavioral health teams: Creating or increasing investment in a behavioral health team and developing an inclusive, aligned and agreed-to vision and goal for that team’s role.

“Throughout this effort, our community partners and school-community stakeholders have invested their time and trust in this process and in developing these recommendations,” said CPS Chief Safety and Security Officer Jadine Chou. “We are so grateful to them for their work and are committed to carrying out this collective vision by supporting our school communities as they review these carefully considered strategies in the school-level implementation phase of the Whole School Safety Planning process.”

Phase 2 ends in June when all 55 Local School Councils will be directed to vote on their school’s proposed Whole School Safety Plan designed by their school’s safety committee. An equitable resource allocation process will be used to evaluate the distribution of resources for the Whole School Safety Plan effort.

About Partner Organizations

The ARK of St. Sabina. The ARK is a safe haven dedicated to enhancing the lives, talents, and spirits of community youth through education, mentoring, and linkages to resources. The ARK offers a variety of free services to countless youth and families in the community. The goal is to develop each youth holistically, in an effort to help every child reach their full potential.

BUILD Inc. Broader Urban Involvement & Leadership Development is one of Chicago's leading gang intervention, violence prevention, and youth development organizations. BUILD inspires hope and offers opportunities so youth facing systemic obstacles can achieve positive futures. The focus is on the hardest to reach youth in some of Chicago’s most challenging neighborhoods.

Chicago Public Schools. CPS serves 341,000 students in 638 schools. It is the nation’s third-largest school district. It’s Office of Social and Emotional Learning ensures school-based staff use the most effective strategies to foster a safe learning climate and maximize student engagement and achievement. It fosters the teaching of skills that help students manage and understand their emotions, develop the ability to relate to others and make responsible decisions.

Community Organizing and Family Issues. COFI is a center and a resource for The COFI Way, a model of family focused organizing, leadership development and community building focused on the wellbeing of children, youth and families. Founded in 1995, COFI is driven by a deep commitment to social justice and grounded in the time-tested principles, strategies, accomplishments, and approaches of community organizing.

Mikva Challenge. Mikva aims to develop youth to be empowered, informed, and active citizens who will promote a just and equitable society. Mikva programs support educators and young people across the country with engaging, Action Civics curriculum and programming that help youth develop civic knowledge, skills and dispositions and remove barriers to being leaders in their communities.

Voices of Youth in Chicago Education. VOYCE is a youth-led organizing alliance for education and racial justice led by students of color from across the city of Chicago and Illinois. VOYCE’s work is driven by the belief that young people who are most directly affected by educational inequity are in the best position to develop meaningful, long-lasting solutions.