An improved school climate strategy is being credited with dramatically improving safety within District schools.
This approach includes replacing a “zero tolerance” policy with a restorative, instructive disciplinary method based in social emotional learning. It also incorporates intensive mentoring, tutoring, and anti-truancy programs, as well as increased collaboration between CPS and the CPD.
According to data from the University of Chicago Crime Lab, the results have been positive, with 2013-2014 being the safest school year since 2007. This analysis was released earlier this week by Mayor Emanuel, CEO Byrd-Bennett, Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, and special guest U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
“Over the past three years, we have made great strides to turn around the decade’s old “zero tolerance” policy that took students out of the classroom and funneled them to the criminal justice system, even for minor misbehavior,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “Today, we’re keeping students in the classroom where they belong, and ensuring they can focus on their studies instead of their safety.”
CPS has seen significant improvements in student safety and behavior since SY 10-11, including:
- A 33 percent drop in out-of-school suspensions
- 37 percent fewer expulsion referrals
- 35 percent fewer in-school arrests
These statistics are evidence of a fundamental shift in school climate – one that minimizes punitive discipline and instead seeks to understand the root causes of student misconduct. It relies heavily on restorative discipline practices within schools, and engages law enforcement and school communities in preventing youth violence. The strategy also includes outreach to the District’s “lost” students (i.e., those who have left school before graduating), the goal being to reconnect with them through the use of alternative options schools.
“This change in approach will help not only to reduce suspensions and expulsions, but also improve student connection to school communities, and most importantly ensure students have access to the tools they need to graduate 100 percent college ready and 100 percent college bound,” said CEO Byrd-Bennett.