The Chicago Public Schools board will vote Wednesday on a new code of conduct that includes big changes to the district's suspension policies, and a comprehensive new plan to combat bullying in the city's 675 public schools.
In addition to eliminating the automatic 10-day suspension for severe misbehavior and transitioning to more in-school punishments, the new code of conduct zeroes in on bullying, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Staff who witness bullying would be required to report it, claims would have 10 school days to be investigated, and a hotline and website would accept anonymous tips and reports about student conflicts.
"It's a problem everywhere," CPS Chief Jean-Claude Brizard told NBC Chicago. "Being a large urban school district we have problems as well. This will make it easier for students, for teachers, for principals to report bullying."
But students and advocates prosted the new code outside Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office last week, carrying signs that called for "caps and gowns, not cuffs and bars," a reference to the district's zero-tolerance policies that often involve police notification, many of which remain untouched in the new code of conduct.
CPS officials say the new code was developed based on feedback from Voices of Youth in Chicago Education (VOYCE), a group of students advocating for equal education access, and other activist organizations, but students say they'd like to see still more lenience that keeps more students in the classroom despite behavioral problems.
In April, members of VOYCE organized a protest after new data showed 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.
In a release issued by VOYCE June 14, the group claimed that unnecessarily harsh discipline within CPS was only adding to the district's $700 million budget shortfall by holding kids back. VOYCE reports that CPS allocated $51.4 million of last year's budget towards in-school security guards and only $3.5 million on school-based college and career coaches.
CPS officials point to a 27 percent decrease in in-school arrests since last year, and a predicted a spike in graduations, with more than 60 percent of students expected to get diplomas this year, the highest percentage since 1999.
The school board will take up the code of conduct during a Wednesday meeting.