How one CPS graduate helped lead the fight against SROs at his alma mater


A member of CPS Alumni for Abolition addresses a crowd of Northside students and community members on July 7(Photo courtesy of Resty Fufunan)

By Aaron Cohen, Managing Editor

A crowd of students, teachers and community members cluster in front of Northside College Prep’s main entrance on a hot July morning. Some hold signs that read “Defund the Police” and “Education not Incarceration,” while others mingle with friends at a distance, waiting for the protest to begin. 

They are demanding the removal of police officers or school resource officers (SROs) from Northside’s school building. It is part of an ongoing effort to bring about systemic reforms to policing and to mitigate the potential mistreatment of people of color by police. 

Resty Fufunan, a Northside alum, watches the crowd swell. 

Fufunan, 18, was not only instrumental in organizing this protest, but has also collaborated with other student activists to organize protests at high schools around the city. He has emerged as a leader in the citywide fight to get SROs out of public schools. 

This summer, recent high profile incidents of police brutality against African-Americans have rocked the nation, causing widespread protests against police brutality and racial injustice. Along with waves of civil unrest, many have reflected on the role of police in society and the responsibilities that police have in public safety. 

Amidst calls to defund the police and reimagine public safety as restorative rather than punitive, a movement to get cops out of schools has arisen. Alycia Kamil, a 19-year-old activist with the group GoodKids MadCity, told WTTW that having police officers in school contributes to the over criminalization of students of color. “Four to $5 million dollars a day is going to officers who target us, who harass us, who murder us,” Kamil said. “And those are the same officers that they put in our schools.” While the CPS-CPD contract is worth approximately $33 million, Kamil is referring to the annual citywide costs annual citywide costs of CPD divided by 365.

As Fufunan watched the events of the summer unfold, he decided that it was time to act. 

“Though I never experienced any harassment or abuse by SROs at Northside, I knew that Black and Brown students who had negative experiences with police felt threatened by their presence,” Fufunan said. “I felt compelled to advocate for those marginalized by police, not just at my alma mater, but all across the city.”

In early June, along with other Northside alumni, Fufunan helped organize CPS Alumni for Abolition, an activist group designed to lobby Local School Councils and elected officials to support the termination of the CPS-CPD contract. 

Since its inception, CPS Alumni for Abolition has amassed more than 1,000 followers on Instagram. They have also established a website where they have posted a document full of testimonials from CPS students sharing negative experiences with police officers in schools. 

In late June, the CPS Board of Education voted 4-3 to reject a motion to terminate the $33 million contract between CPS and the city’s police department, leaving the decision up to Local School Councils. Northside was scheduled to vote on the motion July 7. 

Fufunan saw an opportunity. 

“We decided that we would organize a protest to take place the weekend before the [LSC] vote,” Fufunan said. “If we showed the school that students felt strongly about this issue, then we might be able to swing the vote in our favor.”

On July 7, Northside’s LSC voted 8-0 (with one abstaining) to remove SROs from the school building. Fufunan credits the support from students, teachers and aldermen for the victory. 

Despite this accomplishment, the road to police-free schools has been marked by several setbacks. The most considerable roadblock came in late August when the CPS Board of Education voted to renew the CPS-CPD contract in 55 school districts . Fufunan, who wanted SROs removed from all school districts, said he was disappointed but not discouraged. 

“We know that this is just the beginning of the fight,” Fufunan said. “We will continue to put pressure on CPS until they do what is right. Until they help to fix the systemic injustices that plague our city and our country.”

Fufunan wasn’t always this socially conscious.  

As a politically aloof Northside freshman, he spotted the Northside Mikva Challenge club at “Clubapalooza” and decided to sign up.

“I had heard that Mikva Challenge was a citywide organization that aimed to get youth more involved in politics and thought that was a pretty cool mission, so I sort of said, ‘Why not?’” Fufunan said.

This decision proved instrumental in Fufunan’s development as a student activist.

“As I began to learn more about civic engagement and political action through Mikva Challenge, I realized that I had the power to advocate for issues that I was passionate about,” Fufunan said. 

Up until recently, however, Fufunan’s civic involvement had mostly centered around the Asian-American community. He has tutored low-income Asian-American students, collected census data in Chinatown and coordinated a hybrid summer camp through the Vietnamese Association of Illinois. Fufunan, who is Asian-American himself, said that it seemed logical to primarily focus his energy on his own community.

 “I wasn’t really thinking about social action in the sort of intersectional way it is thought of now,” Fufunan said. “I used to think that my activism had to be limited to actions that would impact people of my own identity. My activism has evolved a lot in that regard.”

Fufunan will matriculate as a freshman at Yale University this fall, hoping to bring his new zeal for intersectional activism to Yale’s campus. 

“I want to help inspire social change and fight injustice wherever it may occur,” Fufunan said. “I will continue to fight for the rights of all oppressed people.”