CPS Partners with Five Community Groups to Reimagine School Safety Strategies
26 January 2021
Collaborative Effort will Develop Trauma-Informed Whole School Safety Programs as Alternatives to the School Resource Officer Program
CHICAGO – Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and five community partner organizations today announced an unprecedented partnership to engage members of the community to develop a menu of trauma-informed safety approaches to serve as alternatives to the School Resource Officer program. Through this unprecedented partnership, the five selected CBO organizations will lead community engagement and develop trauma-informed safety solutions known as Whole School Safety Programs, which schools will be able to adopt next school year.
“As a lifelong educator and leader of this district, I’ve seen the transformative power of a holistic approach to school safety that focuses on root causes of safety concerns based on the individual needs of a school,” said CPS CEO Dr. Janice K. Jackson. “We have made it a priority to empower schools to determine if school resources officers should be in their buildings, and now we are taking the next step by developing a new set of alternative trauma-informed approaches for schools to consider. We are grateful to have partners with deep roots in the community leading these efforts, and we look forward to presenting schools with a holistic menu of options to meet the needs of their individual school community.”
“Over the past decade, CPS has worked to shift how we approach the safety of our schools by taking a broader view of what safe schools look like, especially in terms of how we proactively support our students and not criminalize them,” said Jadine Chou, CPS Chief of Safety and Security. “As our safety approach continues to evolve, we need to partner with parents, students, teachers, administrators and community members to create and implement those holistic safety strategies that achieve the mission of providing world-class educational programs for all students across the city, with a focus on equity.”
CPS leadership and the Board of Education have heard from many stakeholders, especially youth leaders from across the city, who expressed that they wanted schools to reimagine how they view school safety for students. In August, 2020, the Board passed a resolution calling for the development of a new process to create school safety plans that could be implemented without school resource officers, designed after rigorous, authentic engagement with school community stakeholders.
“Now is the time,” said Meyiya Coleman, Voices of Youth in Chicago Education Youth Leader. “We are in a moment to do something transformational. This is about trusting the community to help tackle this challenge. The district needs it. Students need it.”
To initiate this process, CPS issued an application for community-based organizations to partner with the district and lead the efforts. The community-based organizations of the Whole School Safety Steering Committee were chosen by a selection committee that included students, a teacher, a parent, a local school council chair, a principal and the CPS chief safety and security officer. The five chosen, out of 15 applicants, are Voices of Youth in Chicago Education, Mikva Challenge, Community Organizing and Family Issues, The Ark of St. Sabina and BUILD Inc. Given the significant time and effort required, each member organization will receive a $30,000 stipend, which was funded by philanthropic organizations.
“In this unprecedented time we have to take time to rethink safety. Safety is not just the physical space but encompasses the emotional and psychological well-being of our children,” said Lynn Morton, a parent leader of COFI.
In order to fully engage communities and stakeholders and develop concrete trauma-informed strategies for schools to adopt, the work of the Whole School Safety Steering Committee will occur over two phases. During the first phase, the independent consulting firm, Embark Strategies, led the group through a series of sessions to design a process that each organization will use to engage 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.
In the second phase these recommendations will be packaged and prepared for school administrators, local school councils and school communities. Members of the Trauma Responsive Educational Practices Project at the University of Chicago will partner with the district to guide the implementation of the effort. Local School Councils and school stakeholders will be coached through a sequential process to help them reimagine safety for their schools by considering the Whole School Safety recommendations, and learn about the concepts that went into creating them.
“This is about ensuring youth feel safe emotionally, mentally and physically and that is our commitment coming into this process,” said Courtney Holmon, Executive Director of Ark of Saint Sabina.
The committee will host 10 community engagement sessions in February, synthesizing community feedback into 5-10 recommendations for the district to consider. To keep up with the Whole School Safety Planning Process and sign up to participate in meetings, go to bit.ly/WholeSchoolSafety.
“The end goal is to make system-wide changes that stop the criminalization of students,” said Verneé Green, Executive Director, Mikva Challenge Illinois. “Students deserve safe spaces in which to learn and grow, and it is crucial to engage and listen to student and community voices to improve student safety in schools.”
Once completed, this package will be presented to the school safety committees and LSCs of all 55 schools that have SROs. During the budget planning season, the 55 school communities will each prepare a safety plan. CPS has committed to developing equitable funding opportunities to implement safety plans at any of the 55 schools that choose to incorporate the Whole School Safety Plan recommendations.
“We are looking for what works,” said Adam Alonso, CEO of BUILD. “Developing a real plan to keep our young people safe and secure in school, with a strategic emphasis on equity and listening to all stakeholders, while highlighting the importance of youth and parent voices, is key to getting this right.”
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. https://www.thearkofstsabina.
BUILD Inc. Broader Urban Involvement & Leadership Development is one of Chicago's leading gang intervention, violence prevention, and youth development organizations. The mission is to engage at-risk youth in schools and on the streets to help them realize their potential and contribute to our communities. The focus is on hard-to-serve youth in some of Chicago’s most challenging neighborhoods. https://www.buildchicago.org/
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. http://cps.edu
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. https://cofionline.org/COFI/
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. https://mikvachallenge.org/
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. http://voyceproject.org/