Divided District 64 board rejects proposal for cops in middle schools, for now

The Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 board on Thursday rejected a controversial proposal to pursue stationing police in two middle schools.

The issue isn't dead, however. The board subsequently voted to invite Park Ridge Police Chief Frank Kaminski and Niles Chief Luis Tigera to a future meeting to discuss implementing school resource officers.

Board member Larry Ryles was behind the effort.

Ryles wanted Superintendent Eric Olson to start negotiations with Park Ridge and Niles officials that would lead to officers being assigned to Lincoln Middle School in Park Ridge and Emerson Middle School in Niles starting Jan. 1, 2023.

Rules also proposed adding the unspecified costs of those assignments to the district's budget and making appropriate changes to district policies to allow officers in the schools.

Nearly a dozen audience members spoke about the proposal during the meeting; all but one opposed it.

Park Ridge resident Lauren Hall noted that Ryles unsuccessfully proposed assigning police to the schools in 2018.

"We knew it was bad then," Hall said. "It's still bad now."

Hall also voiced concerns about police endangering students and violating their civil rights.

"Keep police and guns out of our schools," she said.

Other audience members questioned what problems officials are trying to solve by bringing officers into the schools and suggested more counselors would benefit students more.

The only audience member who spoke in favor of police in schools was former Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, a Park Ridge resident who now is the police chief in Willow Springs.

"A counselor is not going to stop a gunman coming through the door here," he said.

McCarthy said school police should only be concerned with the safety of students and school employees, not disciplinary matters or mentoring kids. He offered to help District 64 officials develop safety plans.

Ultimately, the board voted 3-3 on Ryles' motion to direct Olson to get the ball rolling with Park Ridge and Niles officials, which meant the measure failed.

Ryles, Tom Sotos and Gareth Kennedy favored the plan, while Denise Pearl, Carol Sales and Nicole Woitowich opposed it. Board member Phyllis Lubinski, who had criticized how the motion was worded, didn't vote.

That led to more debate about whether to invite the chiefs to talk about the issue. Ryles said he thinks that's needed, while Sotos reminded the board that the issue was discussed "extensively" in 2018.

"We can all go back and (review) it," Sotos said.

The board eventually voted 4-3 to invite the chiefs to an unspecified meeting. Lubinski cast a "yes" vote with Ryles, Sotos and Kennedy to shift the scales that time.

Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.