A coalition of students protested outside Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office Tuesday, calling on the city to implement new disciplinary policies that would reduce the arrest rate among African American students in Chicago Public Schools.
Members of Voices of Youth in Chicago Education (VOYCE), a group of students advocating for equal education access, organized the protest after discovering new data indicating that more than 2,500 people ages 18 and under have been arrested on CPS property this school year, and a vast majority of those arrested are African-American--more than three quarters of all arrests, according to WBEZ.
CPS told WBEZ that in-school arrests are down 27 percent from last year, and the police department noted that this data includes arrests during evenings and weekends.
But VOYCE, which has been rallying all year for disciplinary practices that are less disruptive of student education, is demanding a more understanding disciplinary code that doesn't default to suspensions and arrests.
"We need a discipline code that works for all students, not one that sends black and Latino students a path to prison," said Victor Alquicera, a Roosevelt High School student, according to a Huffington Post blog by Rev. Jesse Jackson Jr. on the topic.
Police presence at schools in Chicago and nationwide has increased in the last 20 years, according to "Policing Chicago Public Schools: A Gateway to the School-to-Prison Pipeline," a report released earlier this year by Project NIA. The report found that the vast majority of those affected by the criminalization of in-school behavior in Chicago are black students, who accounted for 74 percent of school-based juvenile arrests in 2010.
Only 45 percent of the system's students are African-American.
The study also turned up geographical biases. Nearly 40 percent of the city's school-based juvenile arrests in 2010 came from five police districts: the 4th, 5th, 6th, 8th and 22nd, all on the city's South and West sides.
Youth intercepted by the criminal justice system at a young age can find themselves trapped in a cycle of repeat incarcerations. A recently released report by the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission found major problems with the way the system handles juvenile cases, often contributing to major disruptions in youth's education.