The Chicago Public School Board of Education passed yet another proposed revision of the Student Code of Conduct Wednesday, aiming to soften the disciplinary policy and curb the suspension and expulsion rates.
Some of the changes seek to spare students from pre-K to second grade from suspension, drastically reduce police involvement in school disciplinary actions, and reduce the number of offenses that could lead to suspension.
This is the second revision of the SCC in response to public concern of unusually high suspension rates in CPS since the 2012 revision put forth by the then-CEO Jean-Claude Brizard.
For a number of years, Chicago Public Schools have been criticized for high number of suspensions, as well as disproportionate suspension rates of African American and Latino students. An in-depth analysis of state and district data by WBEZ has found that more than 50,000 CPS students got out-of-school suspension during the 2013 school year — about 13 percent of the school district’s population.
The current CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett has been working to rule out the zero-tolerance policy in order to reduce suspension rates, in addition to strengthening the Suspensions and Expulsions Reduction Plan with positive results.
“The district had one of the strictest zero tolerance policy I’ve ever seen in this country,” Byrd-Bennett said in a briefing on Monday, “Suspensions should be and must be intended to be the last resort for any of our schools.”
In a statement, the Chicago Teachers Union applauded the revision by praising that such a movement towards disciplinary reform is “a step in the right direction,” but urged the school districts to make a full commitment towards fostering an environment that utilizes restorative justice practices.
Mariame Kaba, executive director of Project NIA, said that the efforts to reduce suspensions and promote restorative justice is an ongoing process, and the passage of the SCC revision is a step towards eliminating unnecessary punitive discipline.
“It’s a broad, long-term, historial issue, and there is still work to do,” Kaba said, “And today is just one day in a line of many, many days to come.”