Youth Safety Advisory Council Statement
There has been some misinformation online about Mikva Challenge due to the recent announcement that our Youth Safety Advisory Council (YSAC) has recommended training for School Resource Officers (SROs). Neither Mikva Challenge nor the youth leaders on our youth councils have stated they are in favor of School Resource Officers in schools. What our YSAC youth leaders did recommend this summer is that if SRO’s do exist this year in schools, they need to be accountable to the students and receive localized training from them. It’s important to note that Mikva Challenge receives no money from the Mayor’s office nor the Chicago Police Department.
We, at Mikva Challenge, are outraged and disgusted by the police killings of unarmed Black men and women in this country. We also know that this country and city have struggled with systemic racism and white supremacy for far too long. We believe that building a just and equitable society happens in multiple ways and authentic youth voice and leadership is core to this process. Protest is a key pathway for change, and we support the many youth leaders who are protesting SRO’s and police brutality. We also support youth leaders who are acting in additional ways to build a better and more just city.
Mikva Challenge operates YSAC with the goal of incorporating youth voice in Chicago Police Department (CPD) decisions and policies that affect young people. In 2020, based on youth and staff input, Mikva decided to shift YSAC’S focus to police accountability and community engagement. Student leaders involved in YSAC worked to develop recommendations to address this framing question: How can community policing and public policy measures inform police accountability? In doing so, YSAC has partnered with other safety stakeholders, including but not limited to, the Independent Monitoring Team (IMT) of the Chicago Police consent decree, the IMT’s Community Engagement Team and the Neighborhood Policing Initiative.
YSAC youth came up with several recommendations, including the recommendation which states: If there are SROs that are approved in schools, the Chicago Police Department (CPD) should mandate the implementation and attendance of community focused School Resource Officer (SRO) training sessions. In addition, CPD should ensure the creation of a training program that works to proactively maintain and develop localized youth involvement, as well as develop positive relationships among SROs and students. The recommendations were presented to staff from the IMT, CPS, the Mayor’s office and other safety-focused organizations.
We have great respect for the leaders on the street protesting and many of our youth and staff have joined these efforts. We support activism and youth voice in all the many shapes and forms it takes in our political system.