New Student Code at CPS

July 27, 2006

The Chicago Public Schools board recently approved a new student discipline code that represents a shift in philosophy.

The new code stresses that discipline should be corrective, not punitive, and encourages principals to use measures like peer juries.

Community advocates say it's a good first step. But they say it doesn't lessen the penalties for misbehavior, or make it tougher for staff to call in the police about minor offenses.

Sarah Biehl is a staff attorney with the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago, which represents kids in expulsion hearings.

"It's great to see the code specifically say that they embrace restorative justice," she says. "However, I don't think it means much if the same old draconian policies that criminalize students are still there."

Out-going board President Michael Scott says the district is working to fix the problem.

"The criminalization of our youth and the various techniques that can be used to more closely manage the behavior of kids in classrooms is a subject that's becoming more and more prominent with all of us," Scott says.

The administration plans to work with staff and advocates to completely rewrite the code for the 2007 school year.

It would include restorative justice measures and alternatives to suspension.