by Janice Lombardo, Program Officer, Democracy Program
Schools should inspire learning, and offer a supportive and positive environment in which to learn. When students are punished for minor offenses by suspensions and expulsions, that out-of-school time creates more problems than it solves. Often, there are more effective interventions that address the root causes of behavioral issues. Students also have a greater chance of educational success the more time they are in school.
Voices of Youth in Chicago Education (VOYCE) is a youth-led, citywide collaborative dedicated to education justice and equity. VOYCE, a program of Communities United and a grantee of the Democracy Program, convened The Campaign for Common Sense Discipline that led the effort to pass SB 100 in 2015.
SB 100 limits the use of out-of-school suspensions and expulsions at public schools (K – 12) in response to minor incidents. It ensures the most severe disciplinary consequences are used not as punishment, but only in order to preserve a safe and productive learning environment. The bill will especially affect students of color, students with disabilities, LGBTQ students, and English Language Learner students who are disproportionally affected by suspensions and expulsions.
In September 2015, the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research released a report that focused on the alarming number of suspensions in Chicago Public Schools. It highlighted that African American students are nearly three times more likely to be suspended than Latino students, and more than four times more likely to be suspended than white or Asian students. In addition, boys are much more likely to be suspended than girls.
In the future, students will receive the appropriate intervention and support they need while remaining in school. This legislation will help our most vulnerable students stay in school, and have the same opportunity as their peers to learn and develop the necessary knowledge, skills, and behaviors to become informed, engaged members of society.
VOYCE is working with groups across the state to ensure strong implementation of the new law. For more information, please contact Maria Degillo at firstname.lastname@example.org.