Weeks after a group of Chicago Public Students staged a protest demanding the school system reevaluate their harsh disciplinary standards, a city council committee is calling for the district to reduce suspensions and expulsions by 40 percent in an effort to keep more kids in the classroom.
The Committee on Education and Child Development wants the city's public schools to revitalize their disciplinary system, emphasizing dialogue over punishment in response to student behavioral problems, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Alternatives to suspensions and expulsions offered by student activists favor "restorative justice programs" including peer juries that hear student cases and mediated discussions between offenders and victims.
Punishments that remove students from school have been flagged as problematic by education activists, and some evidence suggests that minority students are disproportionately affected, leading to larger trends that reduce minority youth's access to education.
"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.
Administrators argued in committee that expulsions are down 43 percent this year compared to last year, WGN reports. The decline follows a district-wide shift to more "holistic" disciplinary measures, including mentoring and intervention at the classroom level.
The resolution passed in committee Wednesday and will be heard by the full city council next, ABC Chicago reports.
Chicago's school system has been in hot water over their disciplinary measures this year. In-school police officers have been accused of inflating student misbehavior and forcing youth into the juvenile justice system too frequently, and the Noble Street Charter Network, which operates 12 schools in the city, was blasted for collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars in disciplinary fines from low-income students.