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Editorial: Roll back suspensions at Chicago Public Schools

Pamela Lewis, a member of Voices of Youth in Chicago Education, talks about changing the “code of conduct” for CPS students last July 14. | Brian Jackson~Sun-Times

For years, the student discipline code for the Chicago Public Schools has largely focused on a single goal: Punishment.

Consider the high schooler who acts out on the bus on Monday and then on Tuesday uses his cellphone at school. Under Chicago’s discipline code, such repeat offenders can serve up to a 10-day suspension.

And they often do.

Suspensions have been the default punishment for serious offenses and for repeat offenders in Chicago for years, costing students 306,731 days of school last year, according to Voices of Youth in Chicago Education, a student group pushing for a limit on suspensions and school-based arrests.

Black students are disproportionately impacted. They made up 45 percent of CPS enrollment in 2009-10 but 76 percent of students who received at least one out-of-school suspension that year.

Suspensions may help in the short term — removing a disruptive kid is a clear plus for teaching and learning — but research suggests it does little good in the long run. A 2011 report by the University of Chicago’s Consortium on Chicago School Research found that Chicago schools with high suspension rates are less safe than schools with lower rates. What helps make schools safe are positive relationships between students and staff, the researchers found.

Keywords: Chicago Public Schools, code of conduct, CPS, Education, Kelvyn Park High School, VOYCE, youth

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