Last week the Journal covered two interesting school board meetings. Both the District 97 Oak Park Elementary School board and the District 200 board at OPRF had probing, thoughtful discussions before approving a new intergovernmental agreement with village government and its police department.
Ultimately the high school board approved the agreement unanimously. At D97 it was a 5-2 vote. At both boards there were worthy questions and concerns raised about an agreement that works to clarify the circumstances in which a school district can and should involve the police department in a conflict within a school, how information about a specific student should be shared with police officers, and under what circumstances police may interview a student and who must be present.
In approving the pacts — the village board is expected to sign off on Nov. 28 — both school boards were assured by their superintendents that this is a starting point for a necessary collaboration and that it will evolve year by year.
To us it seems clear that Ushma Shah and Greg Johnson, superintendents at D97 and D200 respectively, had fruitful and frank conversations with Kevin Jackson, Oak Park’s new village manager and brand-new Police Chief Shatonya Johnson. Clear, too, that those conversations were direct in addressing historic and profound inequities in how Black and Brown students were and are scrutinized by police.
Chief Johnson was persuasive in acknowledging that her officers must respond as “guests” when they are at the high school, respectful of school policies meant to protect its students.
We are charting new ground here. This progress is possible because of the extraordinary alignment of elected boards and their administrative leaders around critical issues of equity. Now we are dealing with real-life issues and not aspirational rhetoric. More work ahead.