Although the working group will deal strictly with school matters, it is being organized by City Hall, not the education department. That department has already announced several efforts to improve school co-locations.
Mayor Bill de Blasio’s co-location group arrives after charter school supporters fiercely attacked his decision to block a prominent charter school from moving into a public building. (He also allowed many other co-locations involving charter schools to proceed.)
Besides schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña and Dave Levin, co-founder of the KIPP charter school network, the group will include Deputy Mayor Richard Buery, who is overseeing the mayor’s pre-kindergarten initiative.
The group will work with principals and parents at both charter and district schools to “foster positive outcomes in future co-locations,” according to the press release. It will also make recommendations around overcrowding and classroom trailers, which the city has vowed to remove.
“With a willingness to work with all stakeholders,” Fariña said in a statement, “we can set aside the heated rhetoric around space that has divided school communities for years and focus on solutions for our children.”
The education department has already announced its own slate of proposals to address school-space issues. Those include a working group to reevaluate the Blue Book, the city’s directory of available space in schools; “campus squads” that will be dispatched to buildings with co-located schools to help resolve disputes; school walkthroughs by top department officials when new co-locations are being considered; and additional public meetings before final co-location votes.
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The Chicago Police Department doesn’t adequately screen and train the officers it assigns to Chicago Public Schools, and their roles in schools are poorly defined, according to a sharply critical report released today by the Office of Inspector General Joseph Ferguson.
The report lists a litany of failings, including basic administration: There is no current agreement between the police department and the district governing the deployment of school resource officers, or SROs, and neither the schools nor the police even have a current list of the officers working in schools this year.
The inspector general’s report also mentions several sets of SRO resources and best practices created and endorsed by the federal government, then notes that Chicago hasn’t adopted any of them. “CPD’s current lack of guidance and structure for SROs amplifies community concerns and underscores the high probability that students are unnecessarily becoming involved in the criminal justice system, despite the availability of alternate solutions,” says the report.
Chalkbeat reported in August about incidents in which SROs used batons and tasers on students while intervening in routine disciplinary matters.
Scrutiny of SROs is nothing new, and is part of the broader CPD consent decree brokered this week between Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. That agreement calls for better training and vetting of SROs, as well as a clearer delineation of their roles on campuses—including a prohibition against participating in routine school discipline — beginning with the 2019-20 school year.
But the report from Ferguson’s office says that the consent decree doesn’t go far enough. It chastises police for not pledging to include the community in the creation of its agreement with the school district, nor in the establishment of hiring guidelines; and for not creating a plan for evaluating SROs’ performance, among other recommendations. In addition, the report criticizes the police department for delaying the reforms until the 2019-20 school year. A draft of the inspector general’s report was given to the police department in early August in hopes that some of the issues could be resolved in time for the school year that began last week. The police department asked for an extension for its reply.