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Students, CPS spar over school arrests

A student member of Voices of Youth in Chicago Education (VOYCE) holds part of a sign representing the 25 young people arrested on CPS property every day.

The student group Voices of Youth in Chicago Education held a City Hall press conference Tuesday to urge CPS to stop having students arrested for misdemeanor offenses, citing its analysis of school arrest data and claiming that the city arrests 25 students, on average, every day.

But CPS and the Chicago Police Department say the group’s analysis is inaccurate because it is based on data for all juvenile arrests on any CPS-owned property, including arrests that take place during non-school hours.

VOYCE says police made 2,546 school-based arrests between September 2011 and February 2012, according to data supplied by the civil rights organization Advancement Project. The VOYCE analysis pointed out that the arrestees included three 9-year-olds, eight 10-year-olds, and 17 children who were age 11. Of those arrested, 75 percent (1,915) were African-American, 21 percent (540) were Latino and 3 percent (75) were white.

Chicago Police Department spokeswoman Melissa Stratton notes that the data includes all juveniles, including non-students and dropouts, who are arrested on CPS property—including non-school property—at all times of the day and night, including weekends.

More accurate school-based arrest data is difficult to find, however. Stratton said CPS could provide “more accurate information about the incidents that actually took place in the schools during the school day.”

CPS officials, however, said they don’t have data on how many times school incidents result in students being arrested. "When an arrest is made, it is noted as part of the incident, but for actual arrest numbers, we will have to refer you to CPD," district spokeswoman Marielle Sainvilus wrote. 

The most common misdemeanor charge was battery causing bodily harm, which 366 people were charged with. Another 358 were charged with “physical contact” battery and 313 with “reckless conduct,” criticized by VOYCE members as a catch-all charge for rowdy students.

The students involved in VOYCE delivered 5,000 petition signatures to Mayor Rahm Emanuel and asked him to attend a May 7 town hall meeting on issues of school discipline and safety.

They complained that in meetings to rewrite the discipline code, CPS officials have not worked with them. Among their demands:

*Limit the maximum suspension time to 5 days, and eliminate suspensions as an option for lower-level infractions

*Eliminate police involvement for misdemeanor-level offenses

*Increase funding for restorative justice programs

*Create a public database of school-based arrests and other disciplinary actions.

Sainvilus says the district does not have the authority to create such a database, because arrests are “the exclusive jurisdiction of CPD.”

CPS officials wrote in a statement that “CEO Brizard is a strong advocate of limiting suspensions and other actions that remove students from the classroom” and noted that new social-emotional supports in schools have led to 28 percent fewer expulsion referrals, 43 percent fewer expulsions and 27 percent fewer arrests on school grounds between 7am and 5pm Monday through Friday.

Officials also say that some VOYCE suggestions have been incorporated into the new student code of conduct. The district has clarified the police notification section of the code, so that principals know they’re not required to call police on students.

“We have told VOYCE that we do not intend to stop all police notification for misdemeanor offenses as VOYCE suggests, because in situations where criminal offenses are committed in schools, police intervention may be appropriate,” the district noted in an email.

At the press conference, VOYCE students held up signs with faces of 25 students, representing “the futures that could have been,” said Kelly High School student Imani Dorsey.

Roosevelt High School student Angelique Wade said that when she was an 8th-grade student at ASPIRA Haugan Middle School, she was arrested and received a 10-day suspension for starting a fight – the first time she had gotten in trouble, she said.

“I want to go to college, and so I’m concerned about it,” Wade said.

Arrests by age and race

Number of juvenile arrests by statute


veteran wrote 2 years 38 weeks ago

Under reporting

It has been my experience that there are many times when a child should be arrested but is not because the teacher backs down. Non-tenured teachers are often too afraid to report crime for fear of principal retaliation.

Principals often cover up crimes because they want the school to look good. Some of our schools are so out of control no one is learning and sitting around in a peace circle/restorative justice will not fix it....try calling up parents of two students who were in a fight and then have the parents start fighting in the office...CPD is our salvation.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 38 weeks ago


Please ask your fellow students to respect their teachers and fellow students by sitting quietly at their desks! I am a teacher...I had to do it when I was young too! It is the requirement of 99% of jobs! I feel bad for kids being arrested...but I fell worse seing a kid get his head smashed on the floor and almost die! Or a teacher being threatended with his life or a keyed car! This is not 100% anyoens fault....but students do need to do their part! Sorry! And most people call me a bleeding liberal...but students cannot break that trust or respect...nor can teachers!! If a teacher touches a student they are FIRED arrested!! End of story!

CitizensArrest wrote 2 years 38 weeks ago

Kidds have the solution, but

Who is listening to them? Not too many people it seems. "Teens said the best way to impose discipline was to take a proactive approach through peer juries and similar tactics." The kids are best positioned to know what's going on when, so the best thing adults can do is empower them to stop things before they start and when that fails, to hold their peers accountable since peer pressure is far more effective than sanctions unconnected to the root causes of violence.

Danny wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

VOYCE does not well represent student voices

The majority of students want to feel safe in their schools. They want chronic trouble-makers who cause them to lose out on their education to be removed from class.

VOYCE may be pawns of the agenda of some activist left-wing groups, but they don't necessarily speak for students at large.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

CPS should release the arrest data quarterly

If CPS wants to claim that these numbers aren't accurate then they should have no problem with releasing more "accurate" data. Yet they do not. They refuse which leads one to believe that these numbers are in fact correct. Good for the young people of VOYCE for agitating on this issue. Young people's voices should be heeded.

Mr. Chips wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

Out with the bad. In with the good.

Suspend them. Arrest them. Do whatever you have to to keep the good kids safe. If you start a fight, vandalize school property, etc. you deserve to be suspended and/or arrested. And yes to Veteran, too many incidents o unreported. For every 25 arrests claimed by Voyce, there are probably 25 more that should have been reported. I'm tired of good kids fearing coming to school because the bad ones are running it.

George N. Schmidt wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

Gang crime in Chicago and in CPS

Some of this is legitimate, and much of it is deja vu all over again. During the years I worked as a teacher at CPS (and as Director of Security and Safety for the Chicago Teachers Union), one of the biggest challenges was separating vicious gang crimes (and more subtle intimidations, like the gangs collecting taxes from kids, even in lunch lines) from the kinds of problems VOYCE is talking about. Often, the legitimate student rights issues were used as a smokescreen behind which the drug gangs hid. I assume that no one is trying to justify the gang activities of Chicago's People and Folks in the schools, and CPS is already in trouble as Rahm Emanuel's management by publicity stunt has opened up a lot of opportunities for the gangs to pool their resources and expand their markets.

Chicago dad wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

explain how they don't.

How does VOYCE not well represent student opinions, and what basis do you have for the claim that they are pawns of some as yet unnamed activist left wing organization? It's more than a bit absurd to suggest that these kids, with the street smarts and commitment to improve their lives they have could be played by anyone. They have forgotten more than you know about what the real problems are and are far better positioned to know how to fix them.

xian wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

I must be confused

You are saying that a grassroots group of student activists making their own issues choices doesn't speak for a broader group of students, but in your first sentence you definitively claim to speak for a broader group of students in your capacity as....internet guy?

George N. Schmidt wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

Reader drug gang article leaves out schools...

No sonner had I begun working through the updates on this problem than this week's Chicago Reader came out with a decent historical and current analysis and report on the drug gang problems in one community -- West Humboldt Park. The one major reality left out of the article (which focused on community organizing, policing, and mayoral hypocrisy and nonsense) was the schools. For the past 15 years, Orr High School, which is in the eye of that drug gang crisis (and could regularly be used for scenes from an updated Chicago-only version of the old HBO series "The Wire") had been the target of the ruling class's "turnaround" and other teacher bashing policies, while the gangs and the gangs' clout in the communities are the real problems.

My main point about the young people raising concerns regarding school discipline is that they can be manipulated to provide a smokescreen behind which the drug gangs operate with greater impunity in the schools. And when the schools, the police and the city are all run by clueless opportunists from outside (Jean-Claude Brizard; Gerry McCarthy; Rahm Emanuel, none of whom is an experienced Chicagoan, and all of whom are devoted to Government by Publicity Stunt) the schools will be in even deeper trouble.

The problems raised by the student studies of suspensions and punishments are real, but they are not abstractions. If the objective is a reduction in suspensions and expulsions without aiming at a real reduction in violent crime, most of which is the direct or indirect result of the activities of the drug gangs, then this idea is the latest in a long line of bad ones.

Those bad ideas, in my records, stretch back to the 1960s and the days of the Black P. Stones operating out of that Presbyterian church in Woodlawn and John Fry's book "Fire and Blackstone" (which left out the brutal murders that gave rise to the hegemony of the Stones in the "People"). The tragedy still is that the majority of children and families in these communities, as the Dumke Reader article demonstrates, are victims of the corruption from the top in Chicago, and the collusion of most of the corporate media in that corruption. For 30 years, I've known about the legend of "Spalding and Beach" in West Humboldt Park. For more than 30 years, that stretch of real estate has been protected by some of the most powerful local and national politicians in Chicago, making a mockery of every honest father and mother, every kid who studies and tries in school, every decent teacher, and every honest cop — the majority in each of those categories.

The wrinkle of the past decade, from Arne Duncan to this year, is that these same hypocrites have been able to get away with teacher bashing those remaining at places like Orr while they (in some cases) profit from this local tragedy straight out of "The Wire" and most recently profiled, in part, in this week's Reader.

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