Category: Education

Feb 25 2014

Calls to Action for Today: Support SB 2793/Oppose HB 4775

Sen Hutchinson- SB 2793

Amends the School Code. As part of the annual school report card, requires every school to provide (i) data on the issuance of out-of-school suspensions, expulsions, and removals to alternative settings, disaggregated by race and ethnicity, gender, age, grade level, limited English proficiency status, length of exclusion, reason for exclusion, and whether alternative educational options were provided; (ii) data on the use of arrests or criminal citations, disaggregated by race and ethnicity, gender, age, grade level, disability status, limited English proficiency status, and alleged criminal offense; and (iii) data on student retention during and between academic years, disaggregated by race and ethnicity, gender, age, grade level, disability status, limited English proficiency status, and the reason for the student’s departure. Sets forth requirements and exemptions concerning the data, including requiring the State Board of Education to analyze the data on an annual basis and determine the top quartile of school districts for specified metrics. Requires certain districts identified by the State Board to submit a school discipline improvement plan identifying the strategies it will implement to reduce the use of harsh disciplinary practices or reduce the disproportionality evident in its disciplinary practices; sets forth other requirements.

Please file a witness slip in SUPPORT HERE.

1. Under Section I, fill in your identification information.
2. Under Section II, fill out your organization if you are representing one or write “self” if you are representing yourself. You can also just fill out N/A.
3. In Section III, select the “Proponent” button.
4. In Section IV, select “Record of Appearance Only.”
5. Agree to the ILGA Terms of Agreement
6. Select the “Create Slip” button.

Slips can be submitted until tonight at midnight, February 25

HB 4775 – Being called a NO-BRAINER BILL:

This bill permits students to be “pushed out” from the traditional school setting for a mere arrest. A basic tenet of the U.S. justice system is to be considered innocent until proven guilty. In essence, it disregards due process protections any accused individual is guaranteed.

This violation may result in an expulsion lasting to 2 calendar years at the discretion of individual school administration.

Discretionary application of school discipline code has been found —and continues to be observed — to have disparate impact on youth of color.

Amends the School Code. Allows a school board to suspend or authorize the superintendent of the district or the principal, assistant principal, or dean of students of a school to suspend a student for a period not to exceed 10 school days or to expel a student for a definite period of time not to exceed 2 calendar years, as determined on a case-by-case basis, if the student has been charged with a violent felony and the charges are pending or if the student has been convicted of a violent felony. Defines “violent felony”. Effective immediately.

Please file a witness slips in OPPOSITION to HB 4775 HERE.

1. Under Section I, fill in your identification information.
2. Under Section II, fill out your organization if you are representing one or write “self” if you are representing yourself. You can also just fill out N/A.
3. In Section III, select the “Opponent” button.
4. In Section IV, select “Record of Appearance Only.”
5. Agree to the ILGA Terms of Agreement
6. Select the “Create Slip” button.

Slips can be submitted until tomorrow, February 26 at midnight

Feb 17 2014

Call to Action: Please Support SB 2760 and SB 2793 TODAY – Addressing School to Prison Pipeline

It’s that time of year again. This time, I am asking that you support two Senate bills that are intended to address school discipline issues in various ways. One focuses on school-based policing and the other on data transparency.

Sen Lightford- SB 2760 — FILE A WITNESS SLIP IN SUPPORT TODAY HERE.

Amends the School Code. Provides that (i) prior to being asked any question or being requested to make any statement while in the presence of a police officer, a student must be informed of the right not to answer any question or to make any statement in the presence of a police officer; (ii) prior to being asked any question or being requested to make any statement while in the presence of a police officer, a student must be informed of the right to have a parent, a guardian, or an attorney present during such questioning or request for a statement; (iii) prior to being asked any question or being requested to make any statement while in the presence of a police officer, a student must be informed that any information given in the presence of a police officer may result in an arrest and in the issuing of a summons and may be used in school discipline and in criminal prosecution; (iv) prior to the presence of a police officer during the questioning of a student or of a request for a statement, the school principal shall approve the presence of the police officer during the questioning of or while making a request for any statement from the student; and (v) prior to the presence of a police officer during the questioning of or while making a request for any statement from a student, a parent or guardian of the student must be given notification of the opportunity to be present during the questioning. Sets forth provisions concerning the notification, school principal and police officer consultation, and tracking and reporting data. Effective July 1, 2014.

Sen Hutchinson- SB 2793 Please file a witness slip in SUPPORT HERE.

Amends the School Code. As part of the annual school report card, requires every school to provide (i) data on the issuance of out-of-school suspensions, expulsions, and removals to alternative settings, disaggregated by race and ethnicity, gender, age, grade level, limited English proficiency status, length of exclusion, reason for exclusion, and whether alternative educational options were provided; (ii) data on the use of arrests or criminal citations, disaggregated by race and ethnicity, gender, age, grade level, disability status, limited English proficiency status, and alleged criminal offense; and (iii) data on student retention during and between academic years, disaggregated by race and ethnicity, gender, age, grade level, disability status, limited English proficiency status, and the reason for the student’s departure. Sets forth requirements and exemptions concerning the data, including requiring the State Board of Education to analyze the data on an annual basis and determine the top quartile of school districts for specified metrics. Requires certain districts identified by the State Board to submit a school discipline improvement plan identifying the strategies it will implement to reduce the use of harsh disciplinary practices or reduce the disproportionality evident in its disciplinary practices; sets forth other requirements.

If you’ve never filed a witness slip before, it’s simple and only takes two minutes:
1. Go to the House Judiciary Hearing website HERE
2. Click on the right icon under the “Witness Slips” column for SB 2760 and 2793 to create witness slips.
3. Under Section I, fill in your identification information.
4. Under Section II, fill out your organization if you are representing one or write “self” if you are representing yourself. You can also just fill out N/A.
5. In Section III, select the “Proponent” button.
6. In Section IV, select “Record of Appearance Only.”
7. Agree to the ILGA Terms of Agreement
8. Select the “Create Slip” button.

Slips can be submitted until tomorrow, February 18 at 12:30 p.m.

Dec 26 2013

2013 in Review: 10 Ways Chicago Youth Organize(d) to Dismantle the Carceral State

One of the many reasons that I love living in Chicago is because of the wonderfully inspiring young people who I am privileged to work with and to know. In 2013, I was as encouraged as ever by their activism and organizing. Below are just a few of the actions and campaigns that I have followed and/or supported in some way. This is not even the tip of the iceberg in terms of youth activism and organizing that has taken place in Chicago this year. For example, many young people protested and organized against ALEC when they came to Chicago for their annual conference in August. Listen to Asha, a young organizer, discuss the group’s problematic nature here. Please feel free to offer your examples in the comments section.

1. Chicago Students Opposing School Closures, High Stakes Testing, and Budget Cuts

by Sarah Jane Rhee (5/15/13) - Vigil to Stop School Closings

by Sarah Jane Rhee (5/15/13) – Vigil to Stop School Closings

Young people were fully engaged in the struggle against school closings. You can find some of the posts that I wrote about their activism and organizing here, here, here, and here.

At the forefront of the student mobilization were the young people of Chicago Students Organizing to Save Our Schools (CSOSOS).

Despite the fact that 50 schools were closed, students are not deterred. They have joined together to launch the Chicago Student Union insisting that their voices be included & heard in any educational decision-making. Chicago student activism hasn’t ebbed as they continue to protest budget cuts, high stakes testing, the school-to-prison pipeline, and education privatization.

2. Trauma Center Campaign: Fearless Leading by the Youth and Rise Chicago

by Sarah Jane Rhee (11/20/13)

by Sarah Jane Rhee (11/20/13)

I started writing about the youth-led campaign to bring a level-1 trauma center for people ages 16 and over to the Southside of Chicago a couple of years ago. This year kicked off with a violent police assault against peaceful protesters (including several youth and adults who I know). There were arrests and eventual acquittals for some of the adult protesters. This event galvanized more people to join in the effort spearheaded by the youth of FLY three years ago to bring an adult trauma center to the Southside.

You can read an update about the campaign (which is ongoing) here. You can read some of my posts here, here, here, and here.

Read more »

Oct 03 2013

Educate, Don’t Incarcerate: National Week of Action against School Pushout

This week is the National Week of Action against School Pushout and my organization has been actively involved.

We co-organized, along with our comrades at the Illinois Safe Schools Alliance and the Chicago Freedom School, a wonderful event that took place on Monday evening. The event “Stand Up/Speak Out About School Pushout: A Youth Panel & Town Hall” drew an intergenerational packed house.

photo by Sarah Jane Rhee (9/30/13)

photo by Sarah Jane Rhee (9/30/13)

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Aug 29 2013

All of a Piece: Reflecting on Struggle & Resistance in the Windy City

I woke up early yesterday. I had even less than my regular four hours of sleep. I was determined to attend the Chicago Board of Education meeting and then to participate in two rallies for education justice and police accountability.

It turns out that I missed the rallies. We waited nearly two & a half hours for the public comment section of the Board meeting to begin. It is excruciating to quietly sit in uncomfortable chairs while blatant falsehoods are offered without challenge.

I thought about leaving early without making my statement but I am accountable to a group of people who have been working on the issue of school discipline data transparency for almost two years now. So I gritted my teeth and stayed put.

Meanwhile outside of the Board meeting, students, parents, educators, and community members were protesting CPS’s closing of schools and the proposed deep budget cuts for the remaining ones. Protesters then marched to City Hall to demand an elected school board. Make no mistake about it, young people were at the forefront of the protests. Students had called on their peers to boycott school and dozens of young people responded by taking to the streets.

photo by Sarah Jane Rhee (8/28/13)

photo by Sarah Jane Rhee (8/28/13)

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Aug 26 2013

Anxiety and Worry: Back to School… in Chicago

Emmet Elementary School by Jessica Rodrigue

Emmet Elementary School by Jessica Rodrigue

The haunting photograph above by Jessica Rodrigue captures and embodies disinvestment and institutional violence. Emmet Elementary school is located on the Westside of Chicago. Today, as students return to school across the city, Emmet stands padlocked and empty. It is one of the 49 schools that were closed by CPS.

I am anxious and unsettled. I’m worried about this school year. Already, I am hearing from teacher friends that they have class rosters with 35 and 38 students. The mother of Asean Johnson, a 9 year old who came to national attention this Spring during protests against school closings, appeared on television this weekend to say that while her son’s school was saved from closing, he’ll have over 35 peers in his 4th grade classroom. This is in no way conducive to a quality education. Anyone who has spent ten minutes in a classroom can tell you this. Frankly, anyone who has been around two children for any length of time can attest to the difficulty of keeping them engaged and on task for an hour, let alone seven…

I fear that CPS is consigning a significant number of our young people to the trash bin; treating them as disposable.

Bontemps Elementary by Bill Healy (WBEZ)

Bontemps Elementary by Bill Healy (WBEZ)

So I am anxious and unsettled.

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Aug 18 2013

Bulldozing Dreams & Communities in Chicago Under Cover of Darkness…

I have watched for years now as Chicago bleeds black people and displaces the poor. This trend predates the current mayor Rahm Emanuel’s tenure. What the election of Emanuel has done is to super-charge a process of gentrification and urban removal that has been happening for years.

La Casita in 2011 (photo by Brett Jelinek)

La Casita in 2011 (photo by Brett Jelinek)

The latest betrayal of the brown and the poor came on Friday evening when parents and children were interrupted during an Atzec dance class by police officers and demolition trucks.

photo by Vivi Arrieta (8/16/13)

photo by Vivi Arrieta (8/16/13)

La Casita, a library and community center adjacent to Whittier elementary school, has been a contested site for years. In 2010, parents and community members staged a 43-day sit-in to save it from demolition. This protest predates the Occupy movement. Chicago Public School (CPS) officials wanted to replace La Casita with a soccer field that would serve Cristo Rey, a nearby private school.

The parents won their fight. CPS promised to keep the center open and leased the building to the parents for $1 a year. Alderman Danny Solis committed to securing funds to renovate the space. You can learn more about the 2010 struggle to save La Casita here.

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Aug 07 2013

Volunteers Needed: Independent School Monitoring Project (Chicago)

I’m a member of the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law’s Educational Equity Project Advisory Committee. The organization does important work in Chicago.

The Chicago Lawyer’s Committee on Civil Rights Under Law and the Education Law and Policy Institute at Loyola Law School are seeking volunteers for the Independent School Monitoring Project.

Pending the outcome of both federal and state litigation, Chicago will be closing as many as forty-nine schools and sending students to designated welcoming schools. The Independent School Monitoring Project is intended to assist in the orderly transition of children to new schools and ensure that their right to a high quality education is preserved during that process. Volunteers will work brief shifts in front of welcoming schools on the first days of the school year, talking directly with parents and students about their experiences at the new school. Volunteers will not provide legal advice, but will be given know your rights materials to hand out and will be able to provide legal referrals as needed.

Volunteering with the Independent School Monitoring Project will be a minimum three-hour commitment: one hour of training and two hours of monitoring time. Trainings will take place on Thursday, August 22nd from 5-6 p.m. and Friday, August 23rd from 9-10 a.m. (volunteers need only attend one of the trainings). We are exploring webcast options for those unable to attend an in-person training session. Monitoring sessions will be on the first two days of the school year for CPS students: Monday, August 26th and Tuesday, August 27th, with additional days of monitoring to be scheduled on an as-needed basis.

If you are interested in signing up, registration is available HERE. Please feel free to direct any questions to Eve Rips at erips@clccrul.org. Thank you so much for your interest.

Jul 31 2013

Invest in Education, Not Prisons: A Youth-Led Rally To End Violence & Reinvest in Communities

Youth activists from Fearless Leading by the Youth (F.L.Y.) and their supporters held a rally and press conference this morning to demand that funds be re-directed from incarceration to restorative justice efforts and other positive youth interventions. The rally took place at the Cook County Offices downtown to coincide with the monthly board meeting. The rally marked the 6th year anniversary of FLY and the Audy Home Campaign.

Some of the youth dressed as prisoners to make the point that the $40 million spent by Cook County to jail youth at a cost of over $500 a day would be better & more effectively spent at the community level providing needed resources.

by Sarah Jane Rhee (7/31/13)

by Sarah Jane Rhee (7/31/13)

“Cook County Board members are failing our youth, incarcerating youth isn’t working, and it is wasting money,” said youth activist and former detainee of the Cook County Temporary Juvenile Detention Center Auntraney Carter. “We are outraged that that as our friends die the county’s only response is to increase spending on juvenile detention.” (Source)

by Sarah Jane Rhee (7/31/13)

by Sarah Jane Rhee (7/31/13)

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May 29 2013

Policing Chicago Public Schools (Volume 2): Youth School-Based Arrests, 2011 & 2012

A significant part of my work involves locating and analyzing data. I’m a data nerd at heart. In November 2010, I launched the Chicago Youth Justice Data Project (CYJDP). My goal was to make juvenile justice-related data more easily accessible to local community members in Chicago. However, I only care about data to the extent that it can be a tool to help mobilize people for action and to perhaps inform policy.

Since CYJDP launched, I have been heartened by the positive feedback that it has received. Community members and organizers have been in touch with me to ask various questions, I facilitated a data workshop in late 2011 that was very well-received, and we have written and published several reports. Some of the reports have been cited by local policymakers, used in media reports, and most importantly to me, they’ve been incorporated in local organizing efforts.

Today, I am excited to unveil “Policing Chicago Public Schools (Volume 2).” This is a report that I co-wrote and co-produced with my friend Eva Nagao. Eva is the genius who actually designed the report and the site. I love the fact that we are experimenting with interactivity. I am incredibly grateful to her for this and so much more. She has volunteered her time with my organization for over a year now and without such support we could not do what we do.

Policing Chicago Public Schools (Volume 2)” relies on data from the Chicago Police Department (CPD) to show the types of offenses and the demographics (gender and race) of the youth arrested on CPS properties in calendar years 2011 and 2012.  The report builds upon the 2010 data that we presented in January 2012.

CPD reports its data by police district rather than by individual school so this year we also worked with students from Loyola University to create an interactive application that allows individuals to search for crime and arrest data by school for the 2011-2012 school year too.

The key data points in the report are that:

  1. Overall youth school-based arrests have been decreasing. In 2010, over 5,500 arrests of young people under 18 years old took place on CPS properties. In 2011, the number of youth school-based arrests (18 & under) was 4,959 and in 2012, it was 4,287.
  2. Black youth are still disproportionately targeted by these arrests. While they represent about 42% of CPS students, black youth accounted for 75.5% percent of school-based arrests in 2012.  This mirrors the general trend of disproportionate minority contact within the juvenile legal system.
  3. In 2012, young men were more likely to be arrested on CPS properties than were their female counterparts [68% vs. 32%].
  4. Most youth school-based arrests are for misdemeanor offenses (84%) as opposed to felonies (16%).
  5. In 2012, 86% of youth school-based arrests happened in school buildings while 14% took place on school grounds.
  6. In 2012, the top three aggregate numbers of youth school-based arrests were in the 8th, 5th, and 4th police districts.  Together these three districts accounted for 30% of total youth school-based arrests on CPS properties.

You can read the full report here. I am really proud of what we’ve done to make this report interactive. I hope that you will take the time to browse.

Below, you can find an infographic that Eva created to help summarize the key findings of the report (so, so exciting).

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