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  • NASW-IL Staff

School Children Should Not Be the Casualty of Over-policing in Schools

The following testimony was provided to the Chicago Board of Education at their June 15, 2020, board meeting:

Listen to the audio here.

Good afternoon. Thank you for the honor of speaking before you. I’m Joslyn Jelinek, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in practice for 20 years and a parent of a CPS elementary student. In my first 16 years of professional practice, I worked at Cook County Hospital in the Child and Adolescent Health Clinic, and had a caseload in child psychiatry. Currently, I am in private practice where a majority of my clients are adolescents.
School Based Policing is the fastest growing area of law enforcement in the country, adding to the commodification of black and brown bodies by advancing the school-to-prison pipeline. I am adamantly opposed to school children being the casualty of over-policing in schools. (Shriver National Center on Poverty).
Although SROs have been operating in schools since 1953, administrations have become increasingly reliant on them and their presence.
Research has demonstrated that the presence of police in schools increases the likelihood that a student will be referred to law enforcement for adolescent behavior.

This falls particularly hard on students of color who are over-policed in schools as it is. Only ⅓ of schools have SROs and the population of these schools reflect majority POC youth. (Handcuffs in Hallways Shriver National Center on Poverty February 2017)

I was drawn by two sections of Special Order S04 01 02. School Resource officers and Investigation at Chicago Public Schools of August 29, 2019
Part III Section A Selection of School Resource Officers states that school resource officers will provide valuable resources to school staff members, foster positive relationships with students. I contend that Master’s-prepared social workers can do the same thing while minimizing the risk of juvenile records or ultimately leaving school if deterred by jails.
Part VII Section A Subsection 2 of Special Order states " only use force that is objectively reasonable, necessary and proportional based on the totality of the circumstances, consistent with the Department directive titled Use of Force", which objectively allows SROs to use any part of the use of force manual with justification on school children.
I contend that people are holding on to SROs from a place of fear and “how it has always been done”, and that there is much to learn from restorative justice and peace circles. I have had the privilege of participating in one of the most innovative peace circles in Chicago called “Circles and Ciphers” in East Rogers Park.
The powers that be are holding onto an armored police presence that very much intimidates and frightens youth on a daily basis to mostly provide comfort to adults.
Anecdotally, I have talked with dozens of teens that are affected by SROs in negative ways, including physical harm, intimidation and threats, sexual harassment, and referrals to law enforcement for such infractions as eye rolling or not putting away a phone.
This heavy-handed manner is not serving the youth of CPS. It's disingenuous to say that police instead of social workers can help with the real symptoms of trauma, poverty, and interpersonal family issues that are observed in the school settings.
In 2018 the OIG submitted a damning report of the directionlessness and improper training of SROs (There is Still no Accountability for Police in Public Schools. Here's How You can Weight in City Bureau June 17, 2019). It's time to address prior mistakes and replace SROs with MSWs.

Joslyn K. Jelinek, LCSW, is a member of NASW-Illinois Chapter, a psychotherapist and certified substance abuse professional who has helped adults, couples, and families work toward positive change in their lives and relationships. She received her master's in social work from the University of Michigan. She has served for over sixteen years as clinical social worker at the Cook County Bureau of Health Services in the departments of social work and psychiatry. She is also the founder of Chicago Human Potential, a private practice located on the north side of Chicago.

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