African-American and Latino students are underrepresented in college prep classes and programs in the Chicago Public Schools and overrepresented in CPS military recruitment programs.
And they are suspended and expelled in significantly higher numbers than white students, often for minor infractions, according to the Youth First Campaign.
Racial tracking, inadequate college preparation opportunities, and disciplinary disparities are among several topics to be discussed at a citywide youth summit on education this month, organized by the Youth First Campaign, an alliance of youth organizations and community and advocacy groups.
Students will take part in issues workshops, and a student panel will present proposals from the workshops to CPS chief Arne Duncan, U.S. Rep. Danny Davis, and state legislators in an afternoon session.
Seven hundred youth attended the first citywide youth summit on justice issues two years ago.
The summit is Saturday, October 19, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (with a talent show at 6 p.m.), at Daley College, 75th and Pulaski.
Chicago Youth United, a network of neighborhood youth councils, is demanding better training for CPS security guards and a minimum age requirement of 21.
According to Cathelean Page of Blocks Together Youth Council in West Humboldt Park, guards at her school “don’t know how to treat us. They’re our age. They flirt with girls and they don’t treat some of the boys right — they play favorites.”
Many guards are hired to work in schools they have just graduated from, students say. They ignore metal detector alarms and let students they know enter with backpacks that aren’t clear, said David Underwood of BTYC.
At Roosevelt High School, security has improved since a shooting in February, said Aaron Garcia of Project Y of the Albany Park Neighborhood Council. “But people still bring weapons to school and they don’t get checked,” and non-students can still enter the building with ease, he said.
In April, following the Roosevelt shooting and the arrest of a Lane Tech security guard for sexual assault, 350 CYU members hosted CPS chief Arne Duncan at a meeting, where they say he refused all their demands except name tags for guards. They’re seeking another meeting, demanding sensitivity training for guards and youth input in monitoring their performance.
Youth council members are also working with adults to get better police presence when schools let out, and recently met with Police Supt. Terry Hillard. “He didn’t agree to anything,” said Megan Rivera of BTYC. “He said we should go to CAPS and go to the area commanders.” In some cases activists had already pursued those avenues. “It’s a citywide problem,” said Rivera.