CHICAGO — Lincoln Park High School students and parents want the ear of the mayor, after tensions boiled over following recent controversial changes at the school.
About 2,200 students left school Friday after a fire alarm went off. Some gathered on campus until the all clear, others left all together. It was a false alarm — another prank at a school that parents and students describe is in chaos.
The fire alarm prank was hours after the Local School Council held a press conference in front of the school, calling for a meeting with Mayor Lori Lightfoot and CPS CEO Janice Jackson.
"Firing the current administrators new to the school who were starting to create positive change is not the answer," Mary Beth Jones, LPHS Local School Council, said.
Walkouts, sit-ins and fights have happened at the Lincoln Park school ever since principal John Thuet and assistant principal Michelle Brumfield were fired. The mayor said there are five serious allegations that are being investigated that warranted removing the two of them and others. She said the allegations were horrifying.
"There’s a lot of things that were going on that involved student on student, adult on student and there are serious questions about if the administration there acted in a responsible way," Lightfoot said.
On Thursday students staged a protest over a video allegedly showing a now former school official grabbing a student’s face.
A security video shows interim principal Judith Gibbs, put in place just this week, grabbing a student's face during an altercation over an ID badge.
The encounter followed already-existing turmoil over the sudden firing Friday of Thuet and Brumfield, and the suspension of the boys basketball season. Chicago Public Schools recently appointed Gibbs to run the school, but she resigned Wednesday saying she wasn’t a good fit.
Students on Thursday staged a sit-in inside the school before rallying outside and marching around the school to protest Gibbs' conduct toward the student and the removal of their administrators.
Also Thursday, kids were fighting in the hallways and security tried to intervene. Chicago police and fire were on site, and at least one student was injured. Some parents took their kids out of school.
Much of the tension between students and the school district stems from the lack of information being released by CPS about the high school administration’s ousting.
CPS officials at a meeting on Monday told families they had four investigations into the school over allegations that include multiple instances of sexual misconduct, retaliation against witnesses, lying to families and financial mismanagement of the athletics program.
Two new administrators, including a new interim principal, will greet Lincoln Park High School students on Friday.
CPS sent the following letter to students and families Thursday:
Dear Lincoln Park HS Students, Families, and Staff,
We understand that there have been a number of questions about the events that took place today, and we would like to provide you with an update.
Earlier today, Lincoln Park HS students led a sit-in and walk-out that was generally peaceful. With the support of the Office of Safety and Security and the Chicago Police Department (CPD), school staff followed protocols and ensured the safety of our students. Students involved with the protest were also able to speak directly to school and network leadership about their thoughts and concerns. They showed maturity and were respectful of the staff and safety of their peers.
While the student action was generally peaceful, there were a small number of altercations among students inside our school building that you may have seen reported. While the images may be troubling, no students or staff were seriously injured as a result of this incident, and we are handling the situation in accordance with CPS policy. The parents of the impacted students have also been made aware.
There were also two issues requiring medical attention earlier today that were not directly related to the student action—one person was taken to the hospital after slipping on water, and another person for a pre-existing medical condition. Both are reported to be in good condition.
Finally, we were made aware of rumors involving gang activity in the vicinity of the school after dismissal. Out of an abundance of caution, we had additional CPD and security presence at the school and dismissal took place without incident.
In the coming week, we will continue to work with the school, parents, and student leaders to support and heal the community. We are incorporating valuable feedback that we received from staff, students, and parents into a plan to better support the school. Among the immediate steps being taken, we are planning the following:
- Beginning tomorrow, the school’s Administrators-in-Charge, Ms .Jerrilyn Jones and Mr. Calvin Davis will visit every classroom to spend time with students and hear their thoughts and concerns. These visits will continue next week until every class is visited.
- Additional staff from the district’s Offices of Social Emotional Learning (OSEL) and Safety and Security will be in the building to continue to promote a calm and supportive environment for students and staff.
- Tomorrow morning, one of the district’s SEL specialists will be at the school to provide staff with a workshop on how to utilize a talking circle in their classrooms at the beginning of the day. We are committed to providing students with safe and healthy tools to express themselves during this difficult time, and talking circles will help support that effort.
- Students who express a need for additional support will be assisted by a new internal referral process to ensure they are linked with appropriate resources.
- OSEL staff will lead discussion groups for students who wish to share additional thoughts on opportunities to promote healing in our school community.
- We have set up a special hotline and email for the LPHS community. If a student wishes to speak to a member of the Office of Student Protections and Title IX, please call 773-535-8523 or email OSPsupport@cps.edu.
We are working very hard to ensure that your child has an environment where they can feel emotionally and physically safe. Thank you for your support and patience.