This is a piece that I had published in the Chicago Reporter about why all Chicago’s schools and every school system in the country should have police free schools.
For 13 years I’ve been teaching in Chicago. 13 years of budget cuts, no librarians, part time nurses, not enough counselors. 13 years of of promises from Mayors and CEOs to improve our schools. Yet, educators always do more with less. That is why the city continues to take. It knows that because teachers love our students we will always do our best, even with no resources.
We love our students so much that we don’t share our teaching stories with non-teachers willingly. We are cautious, we don’t want anyone to judge our students or us. We have pride in our schools. Our schools become our identities. Our kids are on our minds long after the bell rings. We reflect on what went well and obsess on what we need to improve.
Contrary to what I believed when I was a student, teachers have lives outside of school. We are parents, partners, taxpayers, and relied upon by many others in our lives.
So when someone dare calls us greedy it is a right hook to our face. How dare they? Our love for our students and our schools physically drains us. We don’t get enough sleep, we over eat, over stress because of our professions. We stay after the school day ends to grade, to coach, to mentor, for free. We give up our time with our own families for people’s kids.
How dare you call us greedy. How dare you ignore us when we ask for better conditions for our students. It’s not easy for us to do this. We went into teaching because we love kids. We were told our career choice was noble. Yet, now we find ourselves being called greedy because we dare ask for better conditions for our students? We opened up, advocated and showed our love for our students out loud and you called us names.
Tomorrow we are about to perform a noble action taught to us by Gandhi, MLK, Chavez, and Raby. Tomorrow we will strike. We will strike for our students. We will strike for our schools. We will strike to improve our city. We will go without pay. We will risk outsiders talking badly about us. It will sting, it will be hard, but it’s past time that our students have the same basic necessities that every suburban student has had for years.
We will strike because we are noble. We will strike because we know our moral compass points to equity, it points toward justice and we know those are things the students of Chicago have never had.
To view this piece on ChicagoNow click here
Recently the CPS Board of Education had a chance to actually be different than the appointed school boards of the past and do right by kids. They were asked to vote on a plan to give the Chicago Police Department $33 Million more dollars for employing police in schools. Out of the school board members 5 decided that investing in CPD was a good idea.
$33 Million more will given to policing. $33 Million more given to one of the most corrupt police departments in the country. The Chicago Police Department cost the city $118 Million in police misconduct cases just last year. CPD police misconduct has cost the city over half of a Billion dollars in just the last 8 years. CPD is responsible for codes of silence, black sites, sexual assaults, trauma, torture, and far too many murders.
It’s been researched and proven that having police in schools does NOT make kids safe. It allows the trauma that the police caused on the streets and in the neighborhoods to continue in our school buildings.
This is just another reason why I will be voting yes to authorize the Chicago Teachers Union to strike.
To read the the piece on Chicago Now click here
Chicago spends 40% of its entire operating budget on policing. In addition the city has paid out over $500 million on police brutality cases. On top of that Rahm thinks it a wise choice to spend $95 million more on a new cop academy.
Meanwhile those that run Chicago Public Schools (don’t forget Rahm appoints them) voted to close 5 predominantly Black public schools. Add that in with the 50 plus Black schools closed in 2013.
It is not conspiracy to say that Chicago wants to incarcerate, not educate, its Black youth.
It is policy.
Many in the city see the connection. If you underfund and then close schools, while continually increasing funding to police it becomes apparent what the goals are.
A budget is a political document, not just a financial one. It shows what the city prioritizes.
Chicago prioritizes criminalizing our youth, NOT educating them.
Rahm says he cares about kids, but he does NOT send his own kids to CPS. So he can say whatever he wants, BUT unless his own kids are in the CPS system his words mean jack.
Never forget that Rahm said, “25% of CPS students won’t amount to anything.”
Chicago is filled with harmful policies past and present such as redlining, blockbusting, and gentrification. Actual policies created and implemented by the city that targeted and harmed Black communities in our city.
School closings, school turnarounds, and school phase-outs, is just the new or continued version of these policies that target and harm Black communities.
While these policies continue to destroy education for the children in our city, Rahm and his crew make sure to always fund policing.
In Rahm’s Chicago, if a school is deemed unsuccessful, under his bogus school rating system, then that school is punished. Charters will be built in the area and then the school will be closed or phased out after having it’s funding systematically cut.
The police do not receive this same treatment. In fact it seems as if the police are rewarded for the more flawed that they are. Students and schools punished, police rewarded.
The Chicago Police Department is getting a brand new $95 Million Cop Academy on the Westside. More for incarceration and less for education.
Yet, students are told, if you work really hard you can overcome all of this. You can make it.
No doubt the amazing kids in Chicago do overcome. BUT kids should not have to overcome. Kids should just have what they need.
So instead of building a new cop academy invest that money into the schools.
Instead of policing and incarceration we could try fully funding education.
But Rahm says no.
Rahm closes schools.
Closing over 50 elementary schools in 2013 was not enough. He wants more closures. Now it is TEAM Englewood, Roberson, Hope, and Harper high schools. Eliminating all of the public neighborhood high schools in Englewood.
But even that is not enough, so he takes out a high performing elementary school in the South Loop, National Teachers Academy. This closure is done to appease white parents afraid of sending their children to school with a majority of Black students
Rahm says screw the Black community. Because surely if Rahm truly cared about the Black residents of Chicago he would be upset by the fact that over 200,000 Black families have left the city.
But not Rahm.
He would rather close a school than fix a neighborhood.
Put policing over education.
Blame the victims.
Put Incarceration over improving communities.
This is policy. These are calculated choices. This is Chicago.
This is the question that white people love to ask. Because surely if Kajuan was innocent he would’ve just stood there, explained he did nothing wrong, the police would’ve realized he did nothing wrong, and then all parties would’ve gone peacefully on their merry ways. Unfortunately, this is not the way the system of policing works for many people of color.
When I was in high school, my bored friends and I would frequently do dumb things to pass the time. One of the dumbest things we enjoyed doing was running from the cops. We were fit 17 and 18-year-old kids full of boredom, white privilege, and a strong sense of invincibility.
A group of us went to a local park, called the police from a pay phone and told the dispatcher that there was a fight in the park. To ensure a sense of urgency during the phone call we would yell and smash glass bottles in the background. We would then wait the short amount of time that it would take to see a cop car pulling up before taking off running. We knew the area well and also believed we could not be caught and we never were.
Now is this the reason Kajuan Raye ran? Maybe, but it’s not likely
Having taught in Chicago Public Schools for ten years, I’ve heard many, many stories from my students about the police harassing them, far too often, for no reason. In my first year teaching, one of my students came to my 1st period class crying. This 15-year-old kid told me how the police came speeding up on him while he was walking to school. They urgently got out of their cars cursing with their guns drawn. They made him lay in the snow before eventually realizing he was not who they were looking for. He was simply walking to school.
So did Kajuan run out of fear of police harassment? Maybe.
Maybe he ran because he was aware that Sandra Bland and Freddie Gray died while in police custody. Maybe he ran because Chicago still operates Homan Square, a secret detention site used to torture our own citizens and he was in fear of being taken to a place like that.
Or maybe he ran because he was aware that in Chicago alone, Rekia Boyd was murdered by a cop for no reason other than being outside at night, Bettie Jones was murdered by a cop for no other reason than opening her door and Joshua Beal was murdered by a cop because he was blocking a fire lane.
Maybe these are the reasons he ran.
Regardless of why he ran, we know that the police were called because of reports of a battery that happened relatively close to where Kajuan Raye happened to be waiting for the bus. Kajuan ran. A cop said Kajuan pointed a gun at him, twice. The cop shot him in the back and killed him.
Yet no gun has been found.
So instead of asking why he ran, instead of digging through a teenager’s Facebook profile to imply that he deserved to die, maybe ask why did the police shoot a kid for running? Why did the officer lie about the gun? What is the name of the officer who did this?
These are the questions we should be asking.
But because Kajuan is Black and was killed by the police, we instead look for any and every possible way to justify his death.
Thankfully I’m not dead from running from the police when I was younger. Kajuan Raye who did less than I did, should not be dead either.
View this piece on the Huffington Post by clicking here.