May 4, 2012
What if CPS gave a Peace Rally – and a fight broke out?
In a bit of street theater, students who are organizing for school discipline reform will stage the kind of scuffle that often takes place in Chicago schools – a small misunderstanding, a few insults, and someone throws the first punch.
But they’re promising “something unexpected” at that point. Perhaps it’s a lesson for adults on how to de-escalate conflicts and solve underlying problems?
It’s scheduled for 12:20 p.m. on Saturday, May 5 outside the office of Community Organizing and Family Issues at 1436 W. Randolph – and across the street from Union Park, where a giant peace rally is planned by CPS and community groups later in the afternoon.
After the “fight” ends, Blocks Together will hold a hearing at the COFI office, where students will testify about the need for CPS to implement long-promised restorative justice programs to improve discipline and reduce suspensions and expulsions.
The City Council’s education committee recently held a hearing on school discipline issues – but scheduled it at 10 a.m. on a school day, so no students could participate, said Ana Mercado of Blocks Together. Aldermen and school board members have been invited to Saturday’s hearing, she said. (The education committee voted to recommend CPS implement restorative justice.)
“Students at my school get kicked out for the simplest reasons” under zero tolerance policies that CPS supposedly ended several years ago, said Andrew, a CPS student and member of Blocks Together 2.0, in a release.
“With restorative justice, students will be in school instead of getting kicked out,” said Misael, another BT 2.0 member. “Restorative jusice actually helps students solve their problems.”
Blocks Together and COFI are members of the High Hopes Campaign, which calls for using restorative justice to reduce suspensions and expulsions that disproportionately impact minority students. Both groups have worked in individual Chicago schools to implement alternative discipline programs.
On Monday, May 7 at 6 p.m., hundreds of students, parents, and teachers are expected at a Town Hall meeting held by Voices of Youth in Chicago Education to call for an end to “the extreme and unjust disciplinary practices that disproportionately impact the education of black and Latino students in Chicago.” It takes place at IBEW Local 124, 600 W. Washington.
VOYCE has called for limits on school referrals to law enforcement, increased transparency on disciplinary actions, shifting security funding to restorative justice programs, and reducing “push-out” practices at charters.