High Hopes Campaign – Chicago Newstips by Community Media Workshop http://www.newstips.org Chicago Community Stories Mon, 14 Jul 2014 17:31:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.4.12 A community platform to stop violence http://www.newstips.org/2012/04/a-community-platform-to-stop-violence/ Sun, 29 Apr 2012 20:02:07 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=6079 Violence is up in Chicago, but community leaders say prevention works and deserves support.

Hundreds of residents of Rogers Park and Uptown will attend the unveiling of a comprehensive violence prevention platform by the Organization of the North East on Monday, April 30 at 6:30 p.m. at Sullivan High School, 6631 N. Bosworth.

“We cannot end violence and crime with policing and law enforcement,” according to the platform. “We must address the root causes of violence by employing multiple strategies that build community, support positive youth development, prevent the negative influence of poverty and racism, and provide development-focused interventions when youth make choices that will have a negative impact on their lives.”

Speakers will include young people who have been helped by community programs and CeaseFire interrupters and clients.  “There’s a lot of good work being done that needs to be continued,” said ONE executive director Joe Damal.

Students who have been inappropriately suspended will discuss the need for school discipline reform.  ONE is part of the High Hopes Campaign, which calls for implementing restorative justice practices to reduce suspensions and expulsions in CPS.

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Fenger High School – a model for CPS http://www.newstips.org/2012/03/fenger-high-school-%e2%80%93-a-model-for-cps/ Sun, 25 Mar 2012 19:08:44 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=6029 Mark Brown offers an inspiring report on the success of restorative justice in “creating an atmosphere that is both disciplined and relaxed” at Fenger High School, overcoming the unfortunate notoriety the school received with the killing of Derrion Albert in 2009.

Newstips noted Spicer’s work at Fenger over a year ago, in a post reviewing restorative justice efforts in individual CPS schools – and the lack of district support for the initiatives.  (Spicer’s commitment to restorative justice goes back years with his work heading the Community Justice for Youth Institute.)

That’s the bigger picture:  coalitions like VOYCE and the High Hopes Campaign – building on the work of community groups like Blocks Together and POWER-PAC, and the in-school efforts of social service agencies like Alternatives Inc. and the Chicago Area Project — are pressing CPS to put real resources behind the restorative justice approach it officially embraced, at least on paper, in 2006.

VOYCE points out that CPS spends millions of dollars on zero-tolerance discipline approaches that aren’t effective at improving student behavior or making schools safer – and that only make dropout rates worse.  Both High Hopes and VOYCE emphasize the blatant racial disparities in the use of harsh discipline – an issue recently backed up by Arne Duncan.

Mayor Emanuel says improving high schools is going to be a priority.  It needs to be; in two decades of school reform, high schools have been the most resistant to change.

The very first step should be a serious commitment to implementing restorative justice – an approach that holds students accountable for their behavior and supports them to do better, that solves problems rather than kicking them out the door; the approach that’s had such success at Fenger – in every school across the district.

Look at the guide to implementing restorative justice in schools from the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority.

And take advantage of the detailed work of committed Chicagoans on this issue: last year’s report from the VOYCE on the true cost of zero-tolerance policies in CPS; and the important new report from High Hopes, spelling out the steps involved in implementing restorative justice in CPS, including best practices, an analysis of existing barriers in CPS, and how to pay for it.

In fact, High Hopes estimates that CPS could save money — more than $20 million a year — by shifting funding priorities from zero tolerance strategies to restorative justice.

Two years ago Fenger showed us that the status quo is intolerable – and today Fenger is showing us that the problems are not intractable.  It’s a redemption story fitting for springtime.  But it has important lessons for all of us, and it’s up to us to put them into action.

Students are petitioning the mayor, and City Council members and other elected officials are callling for implementing restorative justice.  Let’s heed these voices.

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CPS pressed on discipline reform http://www.newstips.org/2012/03/cps-pressed-on-discipline-reform/ http://www.newstips.org/2012/03/cps-pressed-on-discipline-reform/#comments Tue, 13 Mar 2012 22:46:24 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=5997 A City Council resolution will call on CPS to implement school discipline reforms, and students, parents, and community and faith leaders will release a report showing that a restorative justice approach could make schools safer and save the school district money.

The High Hopes Campaign will hold a press conference in the main entrance hall of City Hall at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, March 14.  Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. (27th) will discuss a resolution he will introduce Wednesday’s council meeting, and students and parents who are implementing restorative justice in Chicago schools will describe their experiences.

CPS added restorative justice to its student code of conduct in 2006 but has never implemented the approach system-wide. The approach uses peer juries and peace circles to improve school safety and culture by holding students accountable for their actions and supporting them to get on track.

The report presents findings that restorative justice is more effective at improving student behavior and achievement than punitive discipline methods, including suspensions, expulsions, and arrests.  It reviews best practices and makes recommendation on what’s needed in terms of funding and staffing, as well as monitoring and evaluation. [Read the report.]

CPS could save money now spent on having police officers and large numbers of security guards in schools – and on expulsions and arrests — by focusing on approaches that improve behavior, said Ana Mercado of Blocks Together.

The High Hopes Campaign (it stands for Healing Over the Punishment of Expulsions and Suspensions) includes Access Living, Community Renewal Society, Enlace Chicago, Organization of the North East, Blocks Together, Trinity UCC, Southwest Youth Collaborative, and POWER-PAC.

Last week the U.S. Department of Education released findings confirming that African-American students in CPS face harsher discipline than other students.  It’s time “to figure out what’s working and what’s not,” said Secretary Arne Duncan at the time.

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Students target school discipline policies http://www.newstips.org/2011/07/students-target-school-discipline-policies/ Wed, 13 Jul 2011 19:49:06 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=4585 While a new mayor and schools chief are promising to reduce the dropout rate in Chicago schools, a group of CPS students is pointing to the school system’s “harsh discipline policies” as “a major obstacle to graduation.”

Voices of Youth in Chicago Education, a citywide, multi-racial youth-led organization backed by several community groups, is releasing a study of “the true cost of zero tolerance,” addressing the budgetary and educational costs of punitive approaches to discipline.

Scores of students and their community supporters will gather for the release at 10 a.m. on Thursday, July 14 outside CPS headquarters, 125 S. Clark.  The students are seeking a meeting with CPS chief Jean Claude Brizard.

Among those speaking will be Jim Freeman, director of the School-to-Prison Pipeline Project of the Advancement Project, a national civil rights group which reported in 2005 on high levels of in-school arrests at CPS (see Newstips 8-24-05).

CPS spends tens of millions of dollars each year “on the enforcement of harsh discipline policies that have proven ineffective,” according to a release from VOYCE.  Costs will rise next year when the city stops subsidizing the cost of stationing Chicago police in schools.

According to VOYCE, the school district’s Office of Safety and Security is 48 times larger than its Office of Student Support and Engagement.

The group joins other campaigns calling for reform of school discipline.  Most recently a coalition of churches in the High Hopes Campaign has targeted the overreliance on suspensions and expulsions, which it says contributes to the dropout rate (more here).

The new report grows out of several years of work inside schools to reduce dropouts.  Following a 2008 report on “Student-Led Solutions to the Dropout Crisis,” VOYCE members piloted a program to provide social and emotional support to freshmen.

Some 300 VOYCE activists served as peer mentors to about 700 freshmen in eight high schools.  They also held retreats and college preparation workshops.

But punitive discipline often presented obstacles, said coordinator Emma Tai. “It doesn’t help get attendance up when you have students being suspended for as much as two weeks for really minor misbehavior,” she said.

One student VOYCE worked with was a former tagger who had turned his attention to school, was improving his grades and was close to graduating on time, she said.

Then police called him to the school office to identify a tag; when he couldn’t, they showed him a year-old tag which he had done and arrested him.  He was suspended for two weeks, Tai said.

VOYCE members commented on the incident in a letter of introduction to the new report (it’s been posted at the Connected by 25 blog):

“As students, we feel greatly affected by how CPS handles school discipline. Harsh discipline policies create institutions where we are expected to fail, because they are based on the fear that young people of color are future criminals, not the hope that we will be future leaders.

“Rather than giving us the positive environment we need to actually learn and accomplish our dreams, these policies suspend, arrest, or just kick us out of school for very minor actions, causing us to fall weeks behind in our classes and distrust the adults who are supposed to be looking out for us.

“No one wants safe schools more than we do, but getting arrested for writing your name on a desk doesn’t make us feel safe. It makes us feel like we aren’t even human—like we are animals. Being treated like this in a place where our dreams are supposed to be supported only breaks our spirits down.

“The motto of CPS is to educate, inspire, and transform students. In order for CPS to really educate, inspire, and transform students, they have to learn to listen to us first!”

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