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College and careers

An overhaul of the district’s career education programs seeks to make classes more challenging and put career-track students on the path to higher ed, but many schools have lost programs, and fewer students are participating overall.

Youth advocates want more data on school arrests

Of the 27,000 juveniles arrested in Chicago in 2010, a fifth of them were taken into custody at school. More than two-thirds of those arrested were black and 75 percent were male.

A youth advocacy group is calling on Chicago aldermen to pass a student safety act similar to one in New York City that forces the school district to reveal the number of arrests, suspensions and expulsions per school every quarter.

Data published as a result of the New York City ordinance have led to important revelations, such as the finding that at least one black male student is arrested in school each day, says Mariame Kaba, founder and director of Project NIA.

“This information is conspicuously missing from the school report card,” Kaba says. “This is information that we need to hold our system accountable.”

On Wednesday, Project NIA released a report on arrests in schools, but the information was difficult to get and came from the Chicago Police Department and not CPS, whose officials say they don’t keep tabs on arrests.

The report reveals that student arrests are a major concern. Of the 27,000 juveniles arrested in Chicago in 2010, a fifth of them were taken into custody at school. More than two-thirds of those arrested were black and 75 percent were male.

“It clearly shows that black males are being targeted,” says Frank Edwards, a professor of sociology at DePaul University and a volunteer with Project NIA. He says that black students are 1.6 times more likely to be arrested at school than their peers.

Principals have mindset of “needing cops”

Kaba says she’s optimistic that a student safety act could fly in Chicago. She notes that Mayor Rahm Emanuel has made data transparency a big push.

But at CPS, the idea might be controversial. Getting student suspension and expulsion information at the school level has always required a Freedom of Information Act request. In recent years, much of the information is redacted because of privacy concerns. 

Also, police have a strong presence in schools and principals are attached to that. Most high schools have two policemen assigned to them every school day. Earlier this year, CPS officials tried to convince principals to give them up in exchange for extra cash. But few principals took the offer.

“The mindset of needing cops is so embedded and cemented,” Kaba says. “That is the environment we are dealing with.”

The number one offense among student arrests is simple battery, which is usually fighting.  Other top reasons include drug abuse violations and disorderly conduct. Few students are arrested for violent crimes.

Project NIA staff are still trying to obtain school-level data from police.

For the most part, the communities with many juvenile arrests also have a lot of school-based arrests. Austin and North Lawndale are exceptions, as they are among the top five communities in juvenile arrests, but not in school-based arrests. Kaba says the situation bears investigation.

Restorative justice still largely untried

In addition to more transparency, Kaba also would like to see more funding for restorative justice programs. The current student code of conduct calls on schools to use restorative justice techniques such as peace circles and peer juries. But the strategies have never taken root in a wide number of schools, since many principals and teachers don’t know how to use these techniques and there’s little money to train them. In addition, some school staff are not convinced that the techniques are effective.

Naomi Milstein, who runs the restorative justice training programs at Alternatives, says that there’s more awareness and desire to do restorative justice. Yet training is hard to come by. Also, since turnover is high in CPS, schools might train one set of staff members but then need to train new people a few years later.

The student code of conduct is currently being rewritten, and Kaba and Milstein would like more explicit directives in terms of restorative justice.

Kaba and Project NIA also are working with state legislators on getting juvenile arrest records expunged. Though most think such arrest records are not accessible, they often show up years later when prospective employers are doing background checks.

Kaba learned this the hard way. A young woman whom she worked with called her, upset that she had been denied a nursing license after attending nursing school--based on a criminal record. At first, the young woman had no idea of the basis of the denial, but then, Kaba says, she remembered that she had been arrested after getting into a fight on her school campus.

“Within 15 minutes of getting to the police department, she was released to her parents,” Kaba says. “She had no idea that she was booked.”

Kaba, who knows the system, was able to get the record cleared up within a week, but she says many  young people don’t have an advocate like her.

“Something like this could cause them to crumble,” she says. “Or it would take a million months to get cleared up.”

10 comments

Anonymous wrote 2 years 12 weeks ago

Who should you really be blaming?

I honestly don't care what gender or color you are... If you break a law, cause bodily harm to another, or threaten the safety of those around you, then you should be arrested. If people blamed parents even half as much as they blame schools then we might get somewhere...

NS wrote 2 years 12 weeks ago

The issue is not blame

The issue is not about laying blame- in fact it is the opposite. The problem with the way we handle these situations is that individuals who are "in charge" are so quick to try and lay blame. Restorative Justice takes a different approach- it allows those who have done harm to another to make things right. When schools use this pedagogy instead of punitive punishment, the results are positive. There is a responsibility on the part of teachers, parents, the community, principals and students to do their part to make their schools and communities safer. It is a two fold answer- not only changing the culture in the school but helping the surrounding areas to change the climate so that kids don't get into this kind of trouble.

And you are right, it doesn't matter what color you are. However, the rates at which youth, particularly male youth of color, are sent to the principal or worse, have the police called are much higher than that of white students. Is this because white students cause less problems? No. Is it because alternative discipline options are used. Possibly.

xian barrett wrote 2 years 12 weeks ago

Crime and Punishment

Aside a violent act on someone, there's not really any reason to ever arrest a child at school.

Even if you believe in "if you break the law", we still need to consider the impact on other students' ability to feel safe at school when their friends are constantly getting dragged out of their classroom for petty stuff.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 12 weeks ago

Petty Stuff

I am teacher...albeit an elementray grade...I only discipline when other students disrespect me (when they throw a desk), insult me racially, threaten other students, or refuse to take my direction. i am an extremely patient and laid back person but sometimes this "petty stuff" involves putting other students and teachers in fear. what we think of petty stuff x 34 kids per room is not condusive to education. teachers sometimes have no choice. i think students are no less afraid of a student being drageed out by the police than they are of having their lives threatended by gangs and cruel students .

i think we need to look at both sides of the story ....if we are willing to claim that schools are guilty of racist policies we also must investigate if these young people are guilty of rascist attacks against teachers of other colors and languages. i really dont think teachers care what color a student is when they are fighting in the hall, punching each other, or making threats to adults and children. of course there are some people who are biased towards a certain race. however, each child must be accountable for their actions. i have heard the the N (black) , the S (latino), the cracker (white), C (chinese) Words. it isnt nice.

however we must also realize ...CPS long ago started worrying more about the bottom line (student scores) than a student's well being. schools are simply judged on their act or ISAT scores....student happiness and wellness dont seem to matter. i have never been asked by my admin if my students were happy and felt safe...never....i put the blame more on CPS (which is run by 50% black teachers and about 50% latino and white teachers and principals). i think first we need look to Brizzard who is black and rahm who is white what is going on at our schools..

Anonymous wrote 2 years 12 weeks ago

I work at a rather diverse

I work at a rather diverse high school in the city. The majority of the students are Latino (50-60%), followed by a pretty equal distribution of black, white, Asian, and Middle Eastern students (10-15% for each group).

Our discipline problems are mostly "he looked at me" issues that spin out of control. There is a huge sense of desire to prove oneself, and that type of machismo attitude is what lends itself to fights and unnecessary drama. We can typically work with students to understand that they do not need to prove themselves at every opportunity, and that it is okay to walk away from a situation. We are fortunate enough to have social workers on staff that can connect to the students and help them.

However, we recently had a spike in enrollment for black students with our freshman class and our behavior issues sky rocketed. My classes that have an unusually high number of black students are out of control. The mean words exchanged, the inability to let go of emotions, and the complete lack of social conduct destroy the entire class dynamic. The students wind each other up and heckle each other. I have never felt so completely powerless in a classroom before and I've been teaching for close to 10 years at this school. These students say some of the cruelest things to each other, then brush it off as if they were just goofing around. They hit each other, they throw each other's books to the floor. The entire class could be taking a test, and someone will feel the need to yell out another student's name in the middle of the exam for no particular reason, get everyone laughing and distracted, then respond with "What?" and get all offended that I dared to ask them to stop disrupting the class.

I have NEVER had such a terrible year of teaching... including my first year as a brand new teacher! My rules have always been simple: treat others the way you wish to be treated. Very rarely have I ever given out detentions or Saturday detentions, until this year. We've had police officers and social workers speak to the offending students (about 20 of them, mostly black) to explain that their behavior isn't acceptable. We've worked with the students 1 on 1, but when they are near each other, it is like talking to a wall.

I am not writing this to poke a stick at the black community or to say how terrible black students are. But as a teacher who is not black, I believe there is some sort of cultural component that I am simply not understanding. This year's students have challenged me in a way that I clearly do not have the skill set to handle. Yet NO ONE ever explains how you handle children who act like what I described. Two of my classes perfectly define the term crabs in a bucket. These students pull each other down at every given opportunity and NEVER encourage or support each other. I personally believe there is a deep cultural or socioeconomic (or both) issue that has not been addressed. I feel like everyone knows black boys are the most heavily disciplined, but no one is asking why they are doing *worse* things than the other children (at least in my school!).

Give me solutions, not theories, that do not assume I am a terrible teacher and incapable of developing rapport with students or managing a class. Every day I watch good teachers want to pull their hair out because the usual strategies do not work. I need a solution, not blame.

MBA wrote 2 years 11 weeks ago

Absolutely

I am currently at Clark and I agree with "rather diverse." Its a zoo with an administration that does little to help teachers. I don't know who yells more at me the, the students or the principal. But there is a lack of self-discipline among too many students here. They are highly destructive and have no concern about education. Teachers are routinely threatened, verbally abused and break or steal what is not bolted down. One student tried to take the screws out of locked cabinet. Recently staff cars were vandalized. And administration worries about failure rates??????????

Anonymous wrote 2 years 11 weeks ago

Response

I am an African American male Teacher with Cps. I have been teaching for the past 5 years, and was born and raised in Chicago. I have worked at 3 schools in the past 5 years, serving hispanic, and black students mostly. I can definately attest to the increase in classroom disorder when comparing nonblack students to black students. Now dont get me wrong, students of any race can be goof balls, but I will not deny that I too have experienced a higher rate of disorder when working with African American students. My remedy for you is this: I have found it to be vitally important to make meaningful connections with these students. Students need to feel validated, respected and they need to genuinely know that you care. I have had students "Try" me, but I have stood strong, head to head against them and prevailed. Some students just want to see how far they can go with you, to see who will back down first. Before I start off teaching anything, I work on building rapport. I bring in my cap n gowns, diplomas and tell them my history of academic struggles and acheivement, and I present to them a person who is not perfect but a person who has become successful due to hard work. This really helps to establish a positive support system. Now for the knuckle heads that still wanna be tough, I just stand my ground, and let them know that in my class I'm the boss! Students want and yearn for discipline, along with the previous things that I mentioned earlier. But they dont want to be disciplined from someone that they feel doesnt give a crap about them. They will buck heads with you every time. I take the time to sit and talk to them, I make myself available to them on lunch breaks and after school. I let them know that they are important. They perform for me academically because they know I care. Meanwhile some of them still act a fool in other classes. My suggestion is to become more personally vested in their well being, allow it to be undeniable. But dont discipline out of anger, do it out of love. It's pretty hard for a student to disrespect someone that they know cares about them. Problem students, are not problem students in my class, and I know that they can sesnse sincerity, versus someone that is just here to do their job. The job of a teacher has to be more than just academics. Now I'm not saying you are doing anything wrong, I'm just saying what has worked for me. Everything that I have learned in school about discipline was complete garbage. This has worked for me. Good Luck!

Anonymous wrote 2 years 11 weeks ago

Response

I am an African American male Teacher with Cps. I have been teaching for the past 5 years, and was born and raised in Chicago. I have worked at 3 schools in the past 5 years, serving hispanic, and black students mostly. I can definately attest to the increase in classroom disorder when comparing nonblack students to black students. Now dont get me wrong, students of any race can be goof balls, but I will not deny that I too have experienced a higher rate of disorder when working with African American students. My remedy for you is this: I have found it to be vitally important to make meaningful connections with these students. Students need to feel validated, respected and they need to genuinely know that you care. I have had students "Try" me, but I have stood strong, head to head against them and prevailed. Some students just want to see how far they can go with you, to see who will back down first. Before I start off teaching anything, I work on building rapport. I bring in my cap n gowns, diplomas and tell them my history of academic struggles and acheivement, and I present to them a person who is not perfect but a person who has become successful due to hard work. This really helps to establish a positive support system. Now for the knuckle heads that still wanna be tough, I just stand my ground, and let them know that in my class I'm the boss! Students want and yearn for discipline, along with the previous things that I mentioned earlier. But they dont want to be disciplined from someone that they feel doesnt give a crap about them. They will buck heads with you every time. I take the time to sit and talk to them, I make myself available to them on lunch breaks and after school. I let them know that they are important. They perform for me academically because they know I care. Meanwhile some of them still act a fool in other classes. My suggestion is to become more personally vested in their well being, allow it to be undeniable. But dont discipline out of anger, do it out of love. It's pretty hard for a student to disrespect someone that they know cares about them. Problem students, are not problem students in my class, and I know that they can sesnse sincerity, versus someone that is just here to do their job. The job of a teacher has to be more than just academics. Now I'm not saying you are doing anything wrong, I'm just saying what has worked for me. Everything that I have learned in school about discipline was complete garbage. This has worked for me. Good Luck!

Anonymous wrote 2 years 11 weeks ago

Response

I am an African American male Teacher with Cps. I have been teaching for the past 5 years, and was born and raised in Chicago. I have worked at 3 schools in the past 5 years, serving hispanic, and black students mostly. I can definately attest to the increase in classroom disorder when comparing nonblack students to black students. Now dont get me wrong, students of any race can be goof balls, but I will not deny that I too have experienced a higher rate of disorder when working with African American students. My remedy for you is this: I have found it to be vitally important to make meaningful connections with these students. Students need to feel validated, respected and they need to genuinely know that you care. I have had students "Try" me, but I have stood strong, head to head against them and prevailed. Some students just want to see how far they can go with you, to see who will back down first. Before I start off teaching anything, I work on building rapport. I bring in my cap n gowns, diplomas and tell them my history of academic struggles and acheivement, and I present to them a person who is not perfect but a person who has become successful due to hard work. This really helps to establish a positive support system. Now for the knuckle heads that still wanna be tough, I just stand my ground, and let them know that in my class I'm the boss! Students want and yearn for discipline, along with the previous things that I mentioned earlier. But they dont want to be disciplined from someone that they feel doesnt give a crap about them. They will buck heads with you every time. I take the time to sit and talk to them, I make myself available to them on lunch breaks and after school. I let them know that they are important. They perform for me academically because they know I care. Meanwhile some of them still act a fool in other classes. My suggestion is to become more personally vested in their well being, allow it to be undeniable. But dont discipline out of anger, do it out of love. It's pretty hard for a student to disrespect someone that they know cares about them. Problem students, are not problem students in my class, and I know that they can sesnse sincerity, versus someone that is just here to do their job. The job of a teacher has to be more than just academics. Now I'm not saying you are doing anything wrong, I'm just saying what has worked for me. Everything that I have learned in school about discipline was complete garbage. This has worked for me. Good Luck!

Anonymous wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

school arrests

from the article
----------------------------

The number one offense among student arrests is simple battery, which is usually fighting. Other top reasons include drug abuse violations and disorderly conduct.

Few students are arrested for violent crimes.
??????????????????????????????????????

HOW is fighting not a violent crime that disrupts the education of ALL

students.......?.....juvenile arrest are way down over the last decade...

zero tolerance may be part of the reason.....the message that

fighting isn't violence helps no ones....least of all the young

offenders ....

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