Chicago Public Schools (CPS) today introduced proposed revisions to its Student Code of Conduct (SCC) that clarify language to create a more uniform student discipline standard across the District. The revisions recognize that the best way to support student learning is to keep kids in school and limit out-of-school suspensions, promoting a restorative approach to keep students in the classroom.
Launched in February, the District’s Suspension and Expulsion Reduction Plan (SERP) is a comprehensive strategy to encourage teachers, principals and school officials to develop alternative discipline methods that keep students engaged and connected to their school communities. The SCC revisions will be presented to the Board of Education at its June 25 meeting.
“For too long, outdated approaches were keeping more of our kids out of school instead of inside the classroom and learning where they belong,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “Moving away from a zero tolerance policy and promoting restorative practices will ensure Chicago Public Schools students remain on track for a successful future.”
Under the leadership of Mayor Emanuel and CEO Byrd-Bennett, CPS has transitioned away from the District’s past zero-tolerance approach to student discipline as overly punitive practices negatively impact school environments, leading students to miss out on valuable class time. According to a study
by the University of Chicago’s Consortium on Chicago School Research, strengthening the connection to school is critical as attendance is eight times more predictive of course failure in the freshman year than test scores.
“CPS has made significant progress in reducing out-of-school suspensions and expulsions,” said CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett. “By establishing a more holistic approach to misconduct, we can address the root-cause of student behavior and promote restorative practices. This approach will ensure our students are given every opportunity to thrive in a positive and safe learning environment that prepares them for success in college, career and in life.”
While progress has been made to reduce the rate of out-of-school suspensions, CPS continues to work towards establishing a more equitable approach to student discipline. In 2012, CPS first amended its SCC to put a greater focus on corrective and instructive practices to reduce out-of-school suspensions and expulsions. These earlier revisions to the student code have allowed the District to realize an unprecedented 36 percent drop in high school suspensions since the 2010-2011 school year. The latest revisions build on that effort with a more holistic approach that addresses the root causes of student misbehavior, minimizing the disruption to student learning and promoting a more positive school climate.
Changes to the SCC include:
• Simplified policy language to encourage accessibility
New mission statement which establishes a more restorative approach to address the root cause of student behavior
A streamlined and easier to access appeal process for parents and guardians to express concerns
New guidelines to assist administrators in implementing policies
• Stronger limits on suspensions applied and an emphasized restorative approach
Removes out-of-school suspension as an available consequence for minor misconducts and lowers the number of suspension days permitted for repeated offenses
Prohibits suspensions of PreK through 2nd grade students, except for cases involving extreme safety concerns that receive network chief review and approval for suspension
• Improvements to the appropriateness and specificity of behavior codes
in order to limit subjectivity in how behavioral incidents are addressed (e.g., “persistent tardiness” re-defined as “3 or more tardies in a semester”).
The revised SCC provides comprehensive guidance to administrators to respond to disruptive student behavior, better enabling schools to drive consistent and supportive school discipline practices throughout the district. It also streamlines the appeal process for parents and guardians, encouraging them to take a more active role in the process.
To further the District’s work to reduce suspensions and expulsions, CPS has assembled a citywide collaborative stakeholder group that collaborates with CPS to develop the resources, capacity and policies to keep students in the classroom. The work of SERP has informed the revisions for the SCC, developing plans which provide stronger supports for principals, teachers and students with professional development to train staff on classroom management and restorative discipline practices that offer alternatives to suspensions.
The sustained effort to update the discipline code aligns with pillar two of the District’s 5-Year Action Plan, calling for systems of support that meet our students’ needs. Providing a safe learning environment will allow our students to make better choices, and to learn skills necessary to graduate 100-percent college-ready and 100-percent college-bound.
Chicago Public Schools serves 400,000 students in 658 schools. It is the nation’s third-largest school district.