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Dear CPS Families and Staff:


Over the past week, several of our school communities have been devastated by gun violence, including my alma mater, Benito Juarez Community Academy in Pilsen. As a city and a country, we are all too often forced to reckon with the reality of gun violence in our communities, and in particular, its toll on our young people.


I want to first express my deepest condolences to every family in our District that has been impacted by gun violence. As the leader of Chicago Public Schools, and a parent of two CPS children, preventing violence against our students and staff is top of mind for me and my team each and every day. Students and staff deserve to be safe as they travel to and from school, and as they learn and grow on our school grounds and within our school buildings. 


I want to use this opportunity to inform CPS families and staff about all of the work we do as a District — including our collaboration with many community organizations and City agencies — to prevent violence and support communities in the event that violence occurs.


Below you will find key information about the CPS Safety and Security programs already underway, and you can access more details, including videos and other resources, on our website by visiting cps.edu/safetyandsecurity.


Safety Measures at Every CPS School


As part of our commitment to safety, we ensure that every school in our District is equipped with the following safety measures:

  • School-specific safety protocol plans (standard operating procedures)
  • School-specific emergency response plans
  • Professionally trained security staff
  • Compliance with annual safety drills requirements (100% compliance every year)
  • Emergency management training for employees
  • Visitor Management System to track who is coming and going from our schools
  • Guidepost Safety Audit Summary – all CPS district schools recently went through an audit on physical conditions such as door locks.
  • Partnering with Safer Schools Together to monitor worrisome behaviors, including threats made against school communities, especially on social media

This last point is incredibly important, and we rely on staff, families, and fellow students to share information about threats to school communities and act to prevent them. If you know of a threat against a school community, including on social media, contact the school’s administration immediately with as much information as possible and, if on social media, collect screenshots to share. If it is after school hours, please also submit the information as soon as possible to the CPS Student Safety Center at studentsafety@cps.edu. The more immediately we receive  information, the more likely it will help prevent an incident or support an investigation.


Additional Safety Measures


Here are some additional steps we take to ensure students’ physical safety:


Security Supports: When there is a safety concern at the school, CPS Office of Safety and Security will work with the school administration to develop a safety plan which can include additional supports.  CPS employs dedicated city wide climate officers who partner with the school-based security team to assist in transitioning the school back to their standard operations.


Safe Passage: Through the Safe Passage program, CPS hires trained professionals to help steer students away from dangerous situations and help them get to and from school safely. Last year, CPS invested $22 million in this program, including $1.5 million to engage Safe Passage staffers to support CPS Summer Programs and Chicago Park District programming so students can continue to have safe access to activities while out of school.


Beyond Physical Security


CPS’ proactive approach to safety goes far beyond physical security issues. The District is equally invested in students’ emotional safety and in building trusting relationships between students and adults in all schools. These measures help students feel supported and reduce the likelihood of violence in our school communities. 

  • Proactive Mental Health Services: We pay special attention to providing supports for students that may be going through extra challenges. Through interventions, counseling and programming, students and their families can access custom supports to meet their specific, individual needs. 
  • Behavioral Health Teams: In this year’s budget, CPS prioritized social-emotional learning supports, including funding for behavioral and mental health teams (BHTs) at every school to help connect students who are struggling with the support they need.
  • Social Workers + Counselors: CPS has invested in hiring more social workers to support students’ social and emotional well-being on a case-by-case basis, and more counselor positions at schools where students face the highest level of risk.
  • New Social Emotional Learning Curriculum: CPS has given all elementary schools access to a universal SEL curriculum that includes bullying prevention and other key tactics to reduce violence.

CPS is also spearheading major initiatives to reach students who may have disconnected from their school community or who have been impacted by severe trauma. By reaching these at-risk students and helping them get back on track, we can support their learning while creating a safer community.

  • Choose to Change: Choose to Change is an evidence-based mentoring program designed to keep young people who are heavily impacted by violence and trauma on track to graduate from high school and stay out of the criminal justice system. This program connects these students with intensive advocate and wraparound supports, as well as trauma-informed therapy to help them live safe and successful lives. This program has been shown to reduce the likelihood of arrests for violent crime by nearly 50 percent, reduce the likelihood of in-school misconducts by 33 percent, and increase school attendance by a full week per year on average.
  • “Back to Our Future” Initiative: CPS is piloting a new intervention model for up to 1,000 youth who have been disconnected from school for at least 12-18 months. CPS is partnering with community-based organizations and the University of Chicago Crime Lab and Education Lab to conduct extensive outreach to engage these hardest-to-reach students and provide comprehensive behavioral health services, mentoring and employment opportunities, and other wrap-around supports in order to build the skills needed in order to safely reconnect with their school communities. 

Supporting Communities Impacted by Violence


When violence occurs in a community, CPS works hand-in-hand with the school and with the Chicago Police Department to investigate the incident and provide additional security support to the school community. At the same time, CPS works to support the school community quickly with important services that can help students and staff heal in the aftermath of trauma. 


The school-based behavioral health teams are available to support school communities with an array of resources and supports following an incident of violence or tragedy. They include:

  • One-on-one and group counseling
  • Healing circles
  • Identifying and providing healing spaces for students and staff to reflect as a school community
  • Collaborating with community organizations to provide additional support
  • Equipping our teachers with resources, including evidence-based strategies and programs for helping students through a tragedy


I saw this plan in action this morning at Benito Juarez. I was struck by the sense of compassion and concern among students, staff, and community leaders. I saw teachers greet the school’s principal with warm embraces as they fought back tears. I watched community volunteers offer students breakfast and hot chocolate. I watched students reconnect with friends after an extremely difficult weekend. Seeing the human connection was a reminder that one of our best resources for healing is each other — embracing fellow members of our communities who are going through a similar experience.


I know that families and staff across our district may have additional questions regarding what we are doing to keep our students safe. I encourage families to visit cps.edu/safetyandsecurity for more information.


Thank you for your partnership as we work together to heal and prevent future instances of violence.



Pedro Martinez

Chief Executive Officer

Chicago Public Schools