Oak Park and River Forest High School is seen on Monday, Sept. 27, 2021, on Lake Street in Oak Park, Ill. | ALEX ROGALS/Staff Photographer

By a 5-2 vote school board members at the District 97 Oak Park elementary schools approved an intergovernmental agreement with Oak Park police and Oak Park and River Forest High School which clarifies how information on students may be shared with police and the circumstances under which police may interview students.

At its Nov. 15 meeting, the board held a lengthy and thoughtful discussion with Supt. Ushma Shah on a range of concerns including equity, training of teachers, administrators and police, and the challenge of a single policy which applies to students from kindergarten to high school seniors.

Shah told school board members that in conversations with Oak Park Village Manager Kevin Jackson and OPRF Supt. Greg Johnson there was agreement  “that we would commit to a continuous process of looking at the implementation and to committing to coming back next year” to further refine the IGA.

Responding to concerns raised by Gavin Kearney, a board member, about the many and unexpected circumstances a police interview of a student might take that are hard to anticipate, Shah said the district needed to do what was “legally required in cleaning up the language” of an IGA. Beyond that though she said the district administration will focus on establishing training for teachers and administrators and to work “in this new space, which is a collaboration with the village and District 200.”

Venus Hurd Johnson, vice president of the board, looked to the historical pain caused by having an outdated IGA. “Because the definitions in the behaviors weren’t explicit, there was student harm. We are working to prevent that. … that system was absolutely broken. We are looking at a different system.”

Ultimately board member Nancy Ross Driben and Holly Spurlock voted against the IGA.

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