Coalition outlines plan for CPS to reduce suspensions,expulsions and school arrests In new report

Community groups and Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. introduce resolution, call for CPS to adopt plan

CHICAGO, March 14, 2012 Student, parent, community and faith leaders with the High HOPES Campaign today presented a resolution to the Chicago City Council, highlighting a new report by campaign leaders to reduce student suspensions, expulsions and arrests in Chicago Public Schools (CPS) through the use of restorative justice practices.

Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. (27th Ward), who endorsed the High HOPES Campaign goals with 19 other city council members in the fall 2011, is sponsoring the resolution.

“Many of us in this coalition have been promoting restorative justice in our schools and communities for years,” said Lynn Morton, parent leader from POWER-PAC and restorative justice practitioner. “We think it’s time for the City Council to stand with its constituents and call on CPS to give life to its own words by truly implementing better discipline practices.”

The recent data released by the U.S. Department of Education detailing racial disparities in suspensions among black and Latino students only further substantiates what parents and community leaders have known for years.

The High HOPES report, "From Policy to Standard Practice: Restorative Justice in Chicago Public Schools," illustrates that restorative justice practices improve school attendance, student achievement, school safety and culture. The key recommendations call for CPS to:

  • Commit to and proactively pursue a districtwide reduction in suspensions and expulsions by 40 percent in the coming school year.
  • Overcome current barriers to the implementation of restorative justice by developing a sustainable, districtwide plan for rolling out these practices in schools.
  • Fully fund and support implementation by creating full-time restorative justice coordinator positions in each school and offering ongoing training and technical assistance.
  • Reprioritize spending on school safety by diverting costly investments in policing and zero-tolerance strategies to the implementation of restorative justice. We estimate that such a full-scale investment in restorative justice would cost around $44 million, much less than the $67 million budget of the CPS Office of School Safety and Security.
  • Create monitoring and evaluation mechanisms to track the reduction in punitive discipline methods and the success of restorative justice implementation, and make that information available in an ongoing, public manner.

“It is easy to label a student like my son as a ‘deviant’ or as a ‘bad kid.’ The repercussions of a stressful moment in our family life could have been detrimental not only to his development, but to his educational success," said Yanitza Carmona de Salgado, a CPS parent and restorative justice advocate with ONE (Organization of the NorthEast).  "Restorative justice restores hope in our children—letting our kids know that they are wanted within our schools."

"By national standards, CPS is referred to as an epicenter of the [school] dropout crisis.  If we truly care about our students and Chicago's image across the world, then it is time to act now,” said Judith Stewart, member of the Education Committee on Restorative Justice, Trinity United Church of Christ. “Pass the ‘Restorative Justice: From Policy to Standard Practice’ resolution today.  It is the right thing to do for our children and for our city."

 Studies show that a student who is suspended just once is three times more likely to drop out of school. In 2010, only 55.8 percent of CPS students earned their diploma within five years.

 Chicago also has the third-highest black-white suspension disparity ratio in the country. From 2009 to 2010, black students in CPS were five times more likely to be suspended than their white peers, according to recent data from the U.S. Department of Education. Black male students account for a disproportionate number of suspensions and expulsions, representing 50 percent and 60 percent, respectively.

 “Suspending us for fighting just brings the violence to the street,” said Edward Ward of the Blocks Together Youth Council. “The only thing that I have seen really work is restorative justice.”

 "Students ask that CPS stop spending on million dollar police surveillance cameras, armed officers and booking stations in schools. These things sometimes lead to more negative behavior in students,” said Quabeeny Daniels, a Generation Y Student leader of the Southwest Youth Collaborative. “Instead we ask you to invest in restorative justice strategies that keep us in school.”

Download the report here

 High HOPES Campaign is a coalition of Chicago-based community organizations including Access Living, Community Renewal Society, Enlace Chicago, ONE (Organization of the NorthEast), Blocks Together, Trinity United Church of Christ, Southwest Youth Collaborative and POWER-PAC. They join together in advocating for CPS to reduce suspensions and expulsions through the implementation of restorative justice programs and other proven strategies.

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