Taft HS LSC votes 8 to 3 to approve safety plan, which calls for retaining police officers and hiring additional social worker
by BRIAN NADIG
The Taft High School Local School Council at its June 16 special meeting voted 8 to 3 to approve a school safety plan that calls for the retaining of Taft’s four on-campus police officers and the hiring of an additional social worker and a security guard.
The vote to retain the school resource officers was unanimous last year. The following three members who were not on the LSC for last year’s vote voted against the safety plan: teachers Scott Plecner and Bridget Doherty Trebing and student Amelia Manno.
Most of Taft’s teachers would like to see a reduction in the school’s SROs, which currently is two for the varsity campus and two for the freshman campus, Trebing said.
The school system has offered schools $50,000 in additional funding for alternate safety-related expenses for each SRO position that they eliminate, but there was confusion at the meeting about whether the funds would be offered on an annual basis.
Trebing cited a Chicago Public School’s safety training document which said that the additional funds (called a “trade-in”) would be an on-going resource and “not just a one-time program.”
Grishaber said that he has been unable to receive a “guarantee” from the school system that the funding would go beyond one year. Two other LSC members said that during their training sessions it was indicated that the funds would not necessarily be allocated on an annual basis.
Grishaber also said that he is “95 percent” certain that those schools which did not retain their SROs for this school year were not given the “trade-in” option for 2021-22. He said that once SROs are not retained, it appears unlikely that schools will be able to get them back.
Most of the 433 respondents in a school survey, which was available to students, teachers, parents and community members, voiced support for retaining the SROS, Grishaber said.
Thirty of the approximately 80 teacher responses called for all four SROs to be retained and 41 teachers said to remove some of the SROs, with about 10 teachers leaving the question blank. The survey allowed respondents to choose from zero to four.
LSC parent parent member Krissy Estrada said that she liked the fact that Taft is retaining its SROs while at the same time allocating $100,000 from its general funds for an additional social worker. “I think our school and students deserve both,” she said.
LSC parent member Maria McDorman said that she feels it is important to have a police presence for “the one time something happens.” She said that she never thought relatives, including her granddaughter, would be a carjacking victim a block from her home but it happened and that the SROs provide an extra layer of protection at the school.
Grishaber said that his goal is to have all students meet at least once with the SROs, adding that the officers will be at his breakfasts with students and meeting with the Student Voice Committee. He said that he wants to see the officers and students talking and laughing together as much as possible as they get to know each other.
The funding of an additional social worker is being planned for the next several years, Grishaber said after the meeting. Currently the school has 2.4 social worker positions.
Taft’s enrollment is expected to be more than 4,300 next school year.