Dear Mayor Lightfoot, Dr. Jackson and Mr. del Valle,

In January 2019, Chicago police officers assigned to Marshall High School dragged my daughter down a flight of stairs and then tasered her, punched her in the face, and stood on her chest. She was 16 years old at the time. My daughter took her cell phone out in class during a test, which was against school policy. After being removed from class she asked to speak to a staff member and be allowed to finish taking a test before leaving school. The police officers decided this was a matter that required police involvement. This was a school disciplinary issue that should have been handled by school staff, instead the police brutalized my daughter and she is forever traumatized. The police officers ordered me to stand back as I watched them strike my daughter – I was not allowed to protect my child.

Police officers do not belong in schools with our children. Police officers get involved in disciplinary matters that school staff should be handling. Police officers are not trained to work with youth, to care for and understand young people the way educators and other school staff are. My daughter had an Individual Education Program (IEP) at her high school. The school social worker and other staff had specific plans in place to follow to address instances like this, but when the police got involved those plans were completely disregarded.

The most vulnerable students are the ones most likely to be abused by police officers. Students with disabilities represent 12 percent of the overall student enrollment yet they make up 28 percent of students referred to law enforcement or subjected to school-related arrests. My daughter is a young Black woman and police and staff in schools also take action against Black students far more frequently than against non-Black students. “Although Black children comprised approximately 40% of the CPS student population that school year, over 60% of CPS’s law enforcement referrals and school-related arrests were of Black children.” The over-policing of already under-resourced communities is continued in the over-policing of students in under-resourced schools.

Upon first entering their schools, students like my daughter see metal detectors and armed uniformed police. Police officers maintain offices in the school to watch over students and collect information on students, including things like the notoriously inaccurate “gang database”. This creates a traumatic environment for kids to learn. Many young people that come into contact with police officers in school have experienced trauma in their lives, and some of this trauma occurs from experiences with police officers in their homes and neighborhoods. Having police in schools is a reminder and continuation of that trauma and does not create a safe learning space.

Despite the Consent Decree and Inspector General’s recommendations, police are abusing Chicago’s children, not keeping them safe. Police do not follow the procedures or policies that are supposed to address the misconduct. In my daughter’s case, there was already a CPS policy that stated police will not get involved in school disciplinary matters. Yet, the officers did get involved and provoked a physical confrontation with my daughter. The officers then lied and claimed my daughter instigated the incident. Thankfully video recordings showed the truth – that officers grabbed my daughter and escalated the incident. The officers brought felony charges against my daughter based on these lies. The officers did not follow even the most basic rules of conduct. That is why students must have #policefreeschools immediately. No child should ever have to endure what my daughter did.

Laurentio Howard

Cc:    Mark Flessner, Chief Corporation Counsel for City of Chicago
Joseph Ferguson, Inspector General for City of Chicago
David Brown, Superintendent of Chicago Police Department