The following statement was read by the District 97 Board of Education during a meeting held July 14, 2020.
In 1999 the District 97 School Board entered into an Intergovernmental Agreement, also known as an “IGA” with the Village of Oak Park under which the Village would fund and provide police officers to be embedded within DIstrict 97 schools. As recently as the 2019-20, school year, these police officers, also known as school resource officers or “SROs,” were positioned full-time at District 97’s two middle schools - Brooks and Julian.
Over the recent past, the School Board, the District and our broader community have begun to consider the need for SROs more closely. A number of students, parents and community members have expressed significant concerns about the effect of having armed police officers in our schools on our culture and climate. Most recently, several hundred members of the District 97 community reached out to the Board urging us to discontinue the use of SROs.
At the same time, members of the District administration and staff have told us that the SRO role has evolved since the Intergovernmental Agreement was originally signed 21 years ago. They have indicated that the current SRO role is less focused on discipline and law enforcement and may not require a uniformed, armed officer. They also shared ways in which they viewed SROs as bringing value to the middle schools.
Given all of this, as well as the Board’s own consideration of SROs and our review of the existing research on the effect of SRO’s on schools, the Board will be terminating the Intergovernmental Agreement with the Village as soon as is possible.
The agreement is 21 years old and reflects a perspective on police officers in our schools that is out of date. It does not reflect current understandings and values, and is not supported by empirical evidence. It also does not accurately represent how District personnel have indicated SROs are currently used.
It is also bad practice in general to have an agreement that goes without update for 21 years and that contains no evaluation metrics or measures. Typically, D97 contracts last for 1-3 years and contain provisions for assessing their effectiveness.
Our termination of the IGA means that there will not be SROs in our schools as we begin the 2020-21 school year. We have shared with members of the District Administration that they are welcome to come back to the Board with a proposal for a new position. For such a proposal, we would be interested in a job description that:
- Clearly describes the role
- Clearly describes the qualifications for the role, i.e. a background in counseling, social work, and so on; and
- Indicates where that person would exist within the DIstrict’s organizational structure.
In order to formally terminate the IGA, the Board must vote to do so and then provide the Village 30 days notice of our decision to terminate. While we cannot take this vote tonight because it requires 48 hour notice, as I indicated the vote and notice to the village will happen at least 30 days prior to the start of the school year.
The Board would like to thank everyone that reached out to us and spoke to us about this issue, particularly our students. We would also like to thank the Village for its willingness to support our schools over these years and we look forward to future collaborations that support our common goal of creating a positive, healthy, and inclusive school environment.