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Chicago Schools Attribute Drop in Suspensions to New Discipline Policies

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Chicago schools saw a 23 percent drop in out-of-school suspensions between 2010-11 and  2012-13 a drop from 46,803 to 36,046, the district announced Friday. And the trend of declining suspension rates has accelerated in  2013-14, with 14,587 out-of-school suspensions through the end of January, representing a 36 percent drop from the same time period in 2010-11, the district said in a news release. The district, the third-largest in the country, enrolls about 400,000 students.

Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett attributed the drop to the 2012 implementation of a new student code of conduct, which encouraged alternatives to classroom removal, such as restorative justice practices.

"After recognizing that too many students were being suspended and expelled due to a zero-tolerance policy that had once been the district standard, CPS worked to develop a code of conduct that encouraged teachers, principals, and school officials to develop alternative strategies and options for dealing with disciplinary issues," the release said. "CPS will now build on this plan through a comprehensive strategy to further reduce out-of-school suspensions."

The district has a committee that is working to:

  • Further review district policy that specifies when suspensions are an acceptable discipline practice.
  • Improve tracking of discipline data that will allow the district to evaluate its practices.
  • Provide resources for parents and school staff to intervene in bad behaviors early.
  • Increase professional development for teachers.
  • Collaborate with other community organizations to address discipline issues.

We've seen a lot of discussion about reducing zero tolerance lately. That includes a new statewide policy in Maryland, a drop in suspensions and expulsions in California due to a similar change in policy, and new guidance from leaders of the U.S. departments of Education and Justice on how schools can avoid violating civil rights laws by properly drafting and applying discipline policies.

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