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Students call on Emanuel to back discipline reform

Student activists and elected officials will launch a petition drive Monday calling on Mayor Emanuel to reverse his support for extreme disciplinary policies that they say are ineffective and force kids out of school and onto the streets.

Students from Voices of Youth in Chicago Education will be joined by County Commissioner Jesus Garcia, State Senator Willie Delgado, and State Representative Kim Dubuclet for a press conference at the Cook County Junevile Center, 2245 W. Ogden, at 10 a.m. on Monday, March 5.

Students will share research and personal experiences showing that punitive disciplinary approaches – ranging from fines for misconduct at Noble Charter Schools to suspensions and expulsions at traditional schools – target black and Latino students disproportionately and increase their risk of failure.

New research by students in VOYCE, reviewing tens of thousands of disiplinary actions at CPS over the past year, shows the vast majority were for offenses that did not pose serioius and immediate safety threats, according to the group.

While Emanuel pushes for a longer school day, CPS policies cause hundreds of thousands of lost school days for kids most at risk, they point out.

VOYCE is a citywide multiracial youth organization focused on reducing dropouts. After a 2008 report on “Student-Led Solutions to the Dropout Crisis,” the goup piloted a program in which 300 members served as peer mentors to 700 freshmen in eight high schools. They found extended suspensions for minor misbehavior to be a major obstacle to getting kids on track (see Newstips from July 2011).

More recently the group highlighted the use of fines for misbehavior at Noble Charter Schools, which they say has pushed low-income students out. Emanuel defended Noble in the controversy.

“As the Noble Charter example shows us, without transparency schools can get away with discipline policies that force out students who need the most support,” said Victor Alquicira, a sophomore at Roosevelt High School. “All schools that get taxpayer dollars should be held accountable to educating all of us.”

Under pressure from community groups and youth advocates, CPS added language to its discipline code backing restorative justice — which “combines strict control and strong support,” according to the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Agency — but has failed to implement the change, critics say (see last month’s post).

Research has shown that restorative justice is effective where harsh discipline fails to make schools safer or improve students’ behavior and achievement. Studies have also consistently found that students of color receive harsher discipline than white students for similar misconduct.

Following the press conference, students will go door-to-door collecting signatures on the petition.

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Category: CPS, school discipline, youth

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One Response

  1. […] the bigger picture:  coalitions like VOYCE and the High Hopes Campaign – building on the work of community groups like Blocks […]

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