Great strides were made with the revision of the 2011-2012 SCC, specifically with the expansion on Restorative Justice (RJ) and the focus on the Response to Intervention (RTI) strategy. Also reflected in the new SCC is the expectation that “suspensions should be the last resort” for school administrators, teachers, and staff. Preventative and proactive programs that promise to ensure students’ achievement by changing schools’ climates appear to be CPS’s priority for the upcoming year. Priorities are in order for CPS (or at least it appears that way on paper).
It makes sense to demand administrators and teachers create nurturing environments and keep kids there by not suspending them. Suspending kids results in loss of class time, and a decrease in their grades. Suspension is so common that children rarely fear at home suspension, but rather enjoy a vacation from school to be out in the streets, play video games, and be on facebook. Suspensions, punishments, and expulsions do not teach children what they have done wrong, nor does it condition them not to do it again because statistics show that kids continue to get suspended at high rates. Last year 1 out 10 kids got suspended!
However, if preventative and proactive programs are a priority for CPS, why isn’t RTI a line item in the budget? Why is CPS cutting $87 million to supplemental programs which include Restorative Justice programs that truly build safe school cultures and avoid suspensions and expulsions, while CPS is spending an extra $7 million in security cameras? If administrators, teachers and staff are expected to produce a different result in the schools, why are they not being given the appropriate tools and resources to do so?
CPS has a duty to provide principals, teachers and staff other alternatives to punitive punishments they encourage against. More importantly CPS has a duty to our children to provide them a quality education. The High H.O.P.E.S. (Healing Over Punishment, Expulsion, and Suspensions) Campaign estimates that CPS can get a Restorative Justice program in every CPS school for $42 million, only 1% of the entire CPS budget. Let’s invest in our children and fund and implement RJ and other proven strategies.
If we expect different results we need to change the way things have been done in the past. What will set aside this CPS administration from those who came before it other than rhetoric and semantics? CPS’s suspension and drop-out rates are embarrassing. But nothing is seriously being done about it. We continue to invest in CPD and zero tolerance measures that have not worked.
Also, rethink the message that is being sent by prioritizing police officers in the schools and replacing old security cameras. The message sent is that we KNOW our kids will do bad things, but not to worry because WHEN they do CPS will catch them, suspend and most likely arrest them. If the budget remains as is, CPS will deny students of a quality education and might just give them the gift of a criminal record. How far in life can we expect our youth to get with this kind of support? Security is important, but CPS should not prioritize reactive strategies above proactive and preventative ones such as RJ and other proven strategies that will change the culture and climate of schools, not weed out the “bad kids”. Last year more kids dropped out than graduated. Our kids, our future, cannot afford for CPS to give up on them.
Member of The High H.O.P.E.S. (Healing Over Punishment, Expulsions and Suspension) Campaign