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Is Police Safety Plan Late For School?

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Safe School Zone sign (CBS)

Safe School Zone sign (CBS)

Jay Levine Jay Levine
Jay Levine is the chief correspondent for CBS 2 Chicago. He joined...
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CHICAGO (CBS) – Next week, all students in Chicago Public Schools head back to class. And although the city’s top cop promised to have a security plan in place to ensure their safe passage, some principals and teachers say they not aware of one.

CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine spent Thursday going from department to department, looking for the plan promised by Police Supt. Garry McCarthy nearly three months ago.

Officials say the plan is still the subject of ongoing discussions between police, school officials and other city department heads.

There is probably no school that needs enhanced security more than Harper High School, a turnaround school smack in middle of Englewood. But this community has taken security into its own hands.

Brenda Golden of New Hope Community Center is pleased with the measures.

“The commander in the area, we can call him, he’s going to make sure we have the extra vehicles that we need,” she said.

In addition to 30 yellow-vested Safe Passage workers, CBS 2 also observed marked police vehicles, undercover cars filled with plain-clothes officers, as well as patrolmen permanently assigned to the school, making good on a priority stated by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

McCarthy, his newly appointed police chief, first talked about a citywide school safety plan in June.

“By the time September comes, we’re gonna have a stepped-up process like none you’ve ever seen before,” he said then.

It’s now September, but Harper Principal Leonetta Sanders has yet to receive formal notice of such a process. A police spokesman says that’s for security reasons. But some school officials reportedly have balked at some of the terms.

Later Thursday, CPS and Chicago police said they are working closely together.

University of Chicago urban schools expert Tim Knowles says police can’t do it alone.

“Are we as the police department going to take the primary responsibility for the streets? Sure we are, but we’ve got to do this in partnership with you — that would be my message from the police chief to the schools chief,” Tim Knowles says.

That partnership reportedly is struggling, leaving schools like Harper as models that could but have not yet spread to other communities.

“It could be a rule, but right now, it’s definitely an exception,” Golden said.

A spokesman for CPS says it’s expanding the Safe Passage Program like the one they have at Harper, while also adding security cameras at 14 schools. But they make no reference to the police superintendent’s plan, which reportedly is inches thick, very detailed — and still top secret.

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