Chicago Public Schools released a new Code of Conduct that prohibits two-week suspensions for minor offenses. Chicago Public Schools have some of the highest rates of suspension, expulsion and arrests of any urban school district in the country. Last year in Chicago, students lost over 300,000 days of instruction due to school discipline. Youth advocacy group Voices of Youth in Chicago Education (VOYCE) has been working for several years to change the policies that lead to this loss of learning time, and has been a major advocate for limiting the length of suspensions for minor offenses.
At a rally to present its own Code of Conduct, VOYCE advocates shared their stories of how Chicago schools’ current discipline policies affect their lives. Keshaundra spoke about being arrested, at 13 years old, simply for walking past a fight. Mohamed spoke for the first time in public about being undocumented, and his fear that the overuse of school arrests would jeopardize his future.
Longer-term suspensions and expulsions are still allowed for major or violent offenses, but not for minor rule infractions like violations of dress code, talking back, or tardiness.
VOYCE says there is still much more work to be done in the schools, including putting limits on suspensions, arrests and fines at all publicly-funded schools, and requiring public reporting on the use of discipline measures at all schools.