Wednesday, October 12, 2016

New law makes it difficult for schools to suspend or expel students, and this is generally a good idea.

In this reaction essay, a student discusses her feelings about the new law changing the educational laws to make it more difficult to use expulsions and suspensions in Illinois. 

I chose to write about Senate Bill 100 (105 ILCS 5/1-2, Public Act 99-0456), which was just passed this year. This bill makes it very hard for a child to be suspended or expelled from school. In order for a child to be expelled or suspended the approval for that punishment must go all the way up through the school board. This bill gets rid of the zero tolerance approach to establishing discipline and a safe learning space in schools. 

I believe this is a good idea in most cases. It helps children who have had to miss class be able to catch  up with the rest of the class. I believe it also helps because before this law, children would see that if they get suspended their punishment is more like a reward: they get to sit at home instead of going to school. Now those kids must stay in school and just may not get to be with their classmates all day. I feel like for some kids they shouldn’t be sent home because it may not be safe for them, and school is supposed to be a safe place. If they get in trouble at school, it should be taken care of at school ,and the child should not be sent home to a unsafe place. I know at the schools I work at they have created a thing called a buddy room. When a child gets in trouble they are sent to the buddy room to cool down and write out what went wrong and how they can fix it. The bill states that a child who it suspended for longer then four days they will be offered support services and mental health support. I agree with this also, even though the child was in the wrong, somehow to be missing this much school they do need help to make sure that they know their school things. The child also may need the mental health care because maybe there is actually something going on in their emotions or mind to cause them to act out the way they are acting. This is why I do agree with this bill, because it is better for the school district and the growing population.  This is all public knowledge and can be googled, but as I am working in the school district, things like this are things I must know and work hard to enforce and get approved.

SB 100 is very significant, since zero tolerance policies were popular for years, and this act repudiates those laws.  Do you have any ideas about why some people might have opposed this act?  It passed with broad support, so it makes me wonder about what the people in the legislature thought about the practices that were common up until this year.  

Applying theories from Haidt and Lakoff to the issue of immigration.

Reaction Paper written by a student, with additions made by myself:
Through these first few weeks of the course I have learned a lot of interesting information that opened my eyes, not only about policies, but also about how situations and morals can influence someone’s actions or beliefs. I used to think that everyone had different morals and no one had the same as me. When we got our assignment that we were to complete for week three, it included taking a few moral foundations tests. The moral foundations theory was created by Jonathan Haidt and his colleagues (and George Lakoff has developed a theory about metaphors and moral narratives that people use to interpret and filter information about the world and how they should evaluate policies and behaviors). The moral foundations theory originally theorized that everyone has the same five more foundations, but people over the past few years have argued there was a sixth moral foundation (for liberty, against oppression), and perhaps a seventh (for conservation, against waste and destruction). The first five moral foundations are care, fairness, loyalty, authority, and purity. 

After taking the moral foundation tests my eyes were opened. Through these tests, I have learned what are my strongest moral foundations. My three strongest moral foundations are care, fairness, and liberty. My scores for these three moral foundations were 83.3% for care and 72.2% for fairness and liberty. Along with the moral foundations tests, we were also instructed to read and learn about George Lakoff’s theories about metaphorical understanding of reality. Even after reading the information on George Lakoff’s moral narratives theory, I was still confused on what exactly it all meant. During class we discussed in depth George Lakoff’s moral foundations theory and went over what our scores meant. After learning what exactly the moral foundations theory meant and going over scores and comparing ours to others, I began to realize that we all had different levels of how much we cared about each moral foundation. I compared mine to my three of my classmates and the person I was closest to in class I found had about the same exact scores as mine for their moral foundations. As we learned about our moral foundations, we were able to better understand how it made us libertarian or conservative. We were able to see how each moral foundations fit into being a libertarian or conservative. I kept receiving scores on our political tests as a left-liberal. I began to understand exactly what it meant. My top three moral foundations reinforced my liberal views. 

We then went over situations on policies that our moral foundations fit into. One example is, we went over the example of what types of moral foundations a person would have if they were for immigration and what a person would have for moral foundations if they were against immigration. People who are for immigration might have strong moral foundations in care, fairness, and liberty. These people care for others and want to help the immigrant. These people believe that everyone deserves the fair chance to come into this country and gain citizenship. These people believe that everyone has a right to liberty and freedom. People who were against immigration might have strong moral foundations in authority, purity, and loyalty. These people would believe that authority should control immigration, and feel that immigration without following the laws is a transgression that cannot be allowed. Their loyalty values lead them to emphasize that we need not worry about the immigrants, and should instead care most about protecting and supporting the current citizens. These people have a lot of trust in the government as an institution that ought to enforce the laws and protect citizens from immigrants who could compete for resources. These people would also possibly believe we need to keep our country pure and not let outsiders in; they might feel uncomfortable about the “impurity” of seeing people all around them who have different cultures or values, who speak non-English languages, or who have unusual religious beliefs. These people would have a large amount of loyalty in the government and a vision of “traditional” America with its old values and cultural practices, and so they want to have the government strictly control immigration and enforce laws against undocumented immigrants. Anti-immigrant beliefs could also be informed by the justice moral foundation, as the persons who oppose immigration might be concerned that those who “cheat” by staying in America without following the law are getting advantages over those who obediently wait for their paperwork to allow them to legally immigrate here, and so it does seem unfair that cheaters would get ahead of those who are playing by the rules. 

From Lakoff’s theories, we can see that the pro-immigrant position is informed by an idea that the government ought to act like nurturing parents, and the government ought to take care of everyone who lives in our country and contributes to our society, and that would include an obligation to treat undocumented immigrants with kindness and benevolence.  The anti-immigrant position is informed by the metaphor that the American government (and perhaps the “free market”) ought to act like a strict father who imposes discipline. In this view, the government must step in to protect the “real” children (American citizens and legal immigrants) from the neighborhood children who have come to live in our household instead of staying in the households where they belong, and the government ought to force the undocumented immigrants to go back where they came from. 

Knowing the moral foundations theory and Lakoff’s theories about metaphors and moral narratives can help us understand why people have different views from each other and what they believe in and what they don’t. While some of us may strongly support better policies to help most undocumented immigrants, others may just as strongly desire that all undocumented immigrants be forced to depart. It is not the case that one side is moral, while the other side is selfish or foolish and immoral.  Both sides have moral reasoning and value assumptions that make their positions seem correct, and the other positions seem irresponsible or wrong. While I may strongly support one side on some policy issue, it’s important to listen to what the other side says, and consider what they believe, so that I will not demonize or dismiss the concerns of the other side.  Only by understanding the assumptions and values of all sides can we be persuasive and thoughtful in debate about policies.

I contributed significantly to the middle (third paragraph, and wrote most of the fourth and fifth paragraphs.  The student wrote the first two paragraphs, and I only slightly edited those, and contributed most of the third paragraph.  

Student believes the expansion of Medicaid makes sense for all states

A student's musing on the Affordable Care Act for a reaction paper.

For reflection, I’ve chosen to give more thought about the Affordable Care Act and the Supreme Court’s ruling that Medicaid expansion be considered optional. I’ve read a few articles that both support and oppose this ruling, but I always come back to the same opinion. It should be required. When Lyndon B. Johnson signed Medicare and Medicaid into law in 1965, he stated it was to “improve a wide range of health and medical services for Americans of all ages” (2012, He didn’t say it was only for the elderly, or for single pregnant women, or just for children. He said Americans of all ages. Yet somehow, there has been a huge disparity between the ages these programs serve.

Medicare provides free hospital coverage to people who are over age 65, permanently disabled, or dying of a terminal illness. Medicare Part A, the free coverage, only covers in-hospital services. So you have to be so sick that you have to be admitted to the hospital for Medicare to kick in. Medicare Part B is only available to the same populations for a monthly cost, averaging $100-120 per month (Lankford, 2015), but will cover some outpatient services with a deductible and co-shares on payments. Medicare Part D is for prescriptions and also carries a fee. Another interesting note many people don’t know is people who are disabled are not eligible to receive Medicare until they have been on Social Security Disability for two years. Two years is a long time for someone the government has found to be permanently disabled to wait for insurance.

Then there is Medicaid. If not expanded under the Affordable Care Act, most states have very stringent guidelines on who is eligible to receive Medicaid. In the state of Missouri, it’s for children, single pregnant women, and single parents with an income of 18% or less of the federal poverty level (, 2016). This means a single parent can only have an income of 18% of $11,880, or $2,138.40 (2016, In Florida, when I was found disabled by the Social Security Administration, my monthly payment was only $650 per month. I was single, disabled, and still ineligible for Medicare, so I sought help through the state Medicaid office. I was ineligible for the regular program, but they had Medicaid for the “medically needy” as a different program. I could get it if I paid them $400 per month out of my $650. People can’t live on $250 per month. This was long before the Affordable Care Act, and I was denied private insurance automatically because of my pre-existing condition, so I had no insurance and no way to receive treatment for a chronic, debilitating, and painful disease. 

I look at the states which immediately opted to expand their Medicaid coverage and think “Bravo! There’s a state that cares about the health of its residents!” Other states claim the costs to expand coverage are too high, despite the additional federal funding they would receive for expansion. But have they not considered the increase in productivity of their workers when they can actually visit a doctor when they are ill? Have they considered the increased revenue in sales tax from those workers, who would have less unpaid sick days, who now have higher earnings to spend in the economy? I believe finding the funds to keep people healthy should take a major priority in state budget plans.

Lankford, K. (2015). How Much Will Your Medicare Part B Premiums Cost in 2016? Kiplinger (2016). Federal Poverty Level. Retrieved on September 19, 2016 from, LLC. (2016). Missouri Medicaid. Retrieved on September 19, 2016 from

LBJ Presidential Library. (2012). The 1965 Medicare Amendment to the Social Security Act.

My understanding is that government officials in the states that have refused to expand Medicaid have an ideological opposition to the expansion of government responsibility for health care.  They do not think the government should become larger.  In the long-term, the ACA hopes to cut public health care costs, but these people who oppose the ACA think that this will fail.  Their moral reasoning is that if they allow Medicaid to expand in their states, they will be enabling the government to expand in a way that is unsustainable.  In the long-run, it is correct to point out that running large federal deficits every year, even when we aren't in a recession or recovery from a recession, will increase the portion of tax revenue that must go to pay off interest on the nation debt, and that will reduce money we have available for other discretionary spending.  So, if you disagree with the forecasts that the ACA saves the government money in the long run, or that its overall cost is relatively low, and the benefits it provides are relatively high, then you have a different perspective of reality, and it is possible to make a moral argument in opposition to the ACA's expansion of Medicaid.

Many of us have no ideological opposition to allowing the government to expand a bit more, and raising taxes by a few percentage points doesn't really frighten us.  Others are ideologically opposed to any expansion of government or any increase in taxes.  For them, this value is a priority, and the arguments based on benefits to society or justice for the poor or care for the ill do not persuade, because the value of "keep government small and remove the government from the free market" is considered more important.  This is difficult sometimes for me to understand, because it seems to me that this dedication to the principle of "small government and unconstrained free market" only makes sense if it provides better long-term outcomes: a more prosperous society with greater freedom and less poverty and injustice and misery, and I don't see the evidence for this being general and universal (in certain contexts, within certain limits, yes, of course free markets give us better outcomes than certain types of government intervention, but I don't see this always being true in every situation). 

Personal Reflections on growing up in poverty, and the penalties for selling SNAP benefits

A student is outraged by the penalties for selling SNAP benefits for cash in this reaction essay:

In response to the book “$2.00 a Day, Living on Almost Nothing in America”, I read about several different families living in poverty that hit close to home for me. I was born and raised in the John Hay Homes (the projects) until about the 5th grade. At that time we moved up from public housing to Section 8 and moved into really nice house on the east side of town. My mother was a single mother of four children and there were tough times. I remember getting food from food banks and busting food stamps at Mr. B’s, a grocery store that was right across the street from our house so my mom could by cash products (cigarettes, toiletries, etc.). My mom worked full time at a local shelter. Her employment not only provided a stable income for our family, but also a link to other resources that were available to the less fortunate in our community. We did not have much, but we made do with what we had, and we were happy kids. I can recall many good memories coming up poor. One memory that makes me smile and giggle the most is remembering how my siblings and I always looked forward to Mama’s pay day! My Mom would let us choose between the restaurants that were in walking distance of our house (we had no vehicle) Hardees, Chili Den, or Popeye’s. We always had something to look forward to. Those were the days!

I do not have actual knowledge of my mother selling her paper food stamps to make ends meet back then, but I do know it was—and is—a common practice both then and now, so I really would not be surprised if she did this. To be honest, even though I grew up in a community that sells and buys SNAP, I never really knew the reasons why mothers chose to sell their food stamps/SNAP. Like most, I assumed most did it for entertainment purposes (alcohol, drugs, etc). It never crossed my mind until reading “$2.00 a Day”, that many families did this because they had no cash incomes. My mother was blessed to have full time employment, but many were not. Without selling their food stamps/SNAP how would a family live month to month paying for toiletries, gas, or utilities with no income? Talk about a wake up call!

With this light bulb being turned on imagine the anger I felt reading “ least in terms of the letter of the law, when Jennifer sells her SNAP, she risks a far longer prison term than the one Jose was subject to for molesting Kaitlin.” I never knew until playing the trivia game in class that a person who sells their SNAP benefits can face up to 20 years in prison. THAT IS RIDICULOUS!!! 20 years in prison for trying to provide for your family. That is one law that needs to be changed.

I think the laws on the books in the State of Illinois for punishing SNAP recipients for selling their benefits offer evidence of institutional racism.  Selling SNAP benefits is clearly a trivial offense, and ought to be a misdemeanor, but it can cary a 20-year prison sentence, the same as attempted murder with the consequence of permanent injury to the person one tried to murder. Why would the legislators impose such a penalty (a potential penalty, which I don't think is actually meted out in the real world) on poor persons?  I suggest it must have something to do with the perception that SNAP recipients are disproportionally likely to be African-American or Hispanic.  There is also a general sense of "hatred of paupers" in our society, where persons who are poor are viewed as failures and worthless, which must certainly inform the decision-making of law-makers who decide to impose a potential 20-year prison sentence for the infraction of selling SNAP benefits.

Student reacts to articles about public housing

A student considers issues with public housing in this reaction essay:

In the four class sessions we attended so far, we did a small-group exercise where we had to present an example of an anecdote from the book $2.00 Per Day to the class. We summarized a character’s situation in the book in a way where we could present it as a story to persuade someone to care about a policy or service need that individual was or wasn’t lacking. We were supposed to make sure that the anecdote appealed to an ethical foundation such as: fairness/ justice ethic or loyalty ethic, purity ethic, conservation ethic, respect for authority ethic, and so forth. My group discussed the family of five who lived in a three-bedroom household. The grandmother was an elderly lady and receive SSI to help pay the bills. The daughter, who didn’t work at all and received food stamps for her child, which helped put food in the house, could not find employment.  The daughter’s husband, who also had a hard time finding a job, felt like less than a man because he could not support his wife and child. Lastly, the grandmother’s brother, who fixed cars for a living, helped out with bills from time to time. The cramming of five people living in a three-bedroom house creates a situation where we can ask, “is public housing actually helping or harming”?

  Howard Husock explains in his article, “How Public Housing Harms Cities”  that the housing projects radiate dysfunction and social problems outward, damaging local businesses and neighborhood property values, making this a noxious environment for their tenants.  Howard believes public housing now concentrates on welfare dependent, single parent households, whose fatherless children disproportionately turnout to be school drop-outs, drug dealers, non-workers, and criminals. This was not the original aim for the establishment for public housing.  Before World War II, President Johnson created the housing act in 1937, to help provide affordable housing to lower-middle class working families of all races. Today most public housing tenants are single-parents, people who have a disability and cannot work or felons who cannot get a job, because of their criminal record. 

I agree with Husock that public housing does concentrate on welfare dependent, single parent households, because most lower working middle class individual only make enough to cover rent and utilities and sometimes are left with hardly any or no money to buy food. The problem is very simple problem in my opinion, there isn’t enough affordable housing to go around, because of the barriers of racism in this country. Historian Ed Goetz explains in his article, “The story of American public housing is one of quiet successes drowned out by loud failures”, that things started to go left after World War II.  The federal government pushed for people to become homeowners by increasing the authorization for Federal Housing Authority loans, mostly available to white families, which helped to create better job opportunities for them as well. Leaving minority residents with nothing. The whites began to move out of public housing and bought their own homes. Minorities were prevented from buying better homes in certain areas, and they were discriminated against in job applications. As the population of public-housing properties became more impoverished and blacker, white residents with jobs, even low-paying ones, hurried to move out of the projects.

This is a nice reaction essay because you have taken two long and detailed articles from two different points of view, one from a conservative (almost Libertarian) perspective (Husock), and another from a more liberal point-of-view (the Samuels article from the Atlantic Monthly).  Reading Husock's article reminded me of the frustration I had back in the 1980s when I read propaganda published from the Soviet Union or the so-called "communist" East Bloc.  It resembled those sources inasmuch as the article is full with truth and accurate observations and valid quotations from authorities, but it is all presented in a biased, unbalanced way, and leaves out important facts, ignores other truths, and simply gets a few things flat wrong. That is, it's a "half-true" article, mixing in lots of realistic material with assumptions and distortions that mislead.  For example, the "Moving to Opportunity" and other studies of what happened when poor youth were moved out of Chicago's dangerous neighborhoods and placed in less dangerous small town or suburban areas found that, yes, there was a slight deterioration (negative influence) in behavior initially among males, but over the long-term, the results of the most recent research shows that there were significant and substantial benefits to the youth who were moved out of bad neighborhoods, and trivial or non-existent negative consequences for the youth in the new areas where the relocated youth arrived.

You are wise to point to two main points, which are fairly indisputable: 1) there is not enough affordable housing in some housing markets; and 2) large public housing projects concentrated people in poverty, and the concentration of poor households was a harmful problem.  I think there is wide consensus on these two points, and has been nearly universal agreement for the past two decades.  Husock does challenge the idea that affordable apartments are difficult to find in New York City, but elsewhere in his article he admits that the residents of public housing: (mostly elderly, persons with disabilities, and single mothers with children) do pose a problem, because we as a society do want them to have decent housing, and we don't want them to become homeless.

The thing I found in my research on public housing in the 1990s in Saint Louis was that the reputation and the narrative about public housing became a perceived reality that everyone agreed about.  Almost everyone I interviewed who lived in public housing complained about it and said they were eager to get out of public housing, and those who were also poor, but lived in low-rent housing likewise said they did not want to live in public housing. And yet, when I asked about environmental stresses, or social connections, or quality of life, the respondents living in public housing reported a far better daily life experience in their lived environments than did the other poor who lived in non-subsidized low cost market-rate housing. I was especially struck by Husock's description of subsidized housing as being terrible compared to market-rate housing, since my experience in researching this issue in the 1990s in Saint Louis suggested that HUD's requirements for landlords to keep their apartments qualified for housing choice vouchers were strict, and set such high standards that the potential supply of low-cost subsidized housing was severely restricted. That is, lndlords found it easier to have apartments rented to low-income tenants without housing vouchers because the costs of upgrading their units to comply with HUD standards outweighed the advantages of having a more dependable rental payment from HUD-subsidized tenants.

Also, Husock is working with an assumption about which is better: having affordable (public subsidized or provide) housing or having no local affordable housing so that more valuable housing can earn higher tax revenues and profits for developers and landlords.  This is a value assumption, and many people would prefer that the public step in to ensure that there is some affordable housing in a city, rather than allowing the free market to make a city affordable only to the wealthy.  The HOPE VI policies that Husock so strongly detests tried to strike a balance, reducing the concentration of the poorest families while making available housing for a range of incomes. This seems to many observers a reasonable middle-ground, since the concentration of a solid block of poor households has some negative consequences, and the market tendency to create situations where only the wealthy can afford to live in some areas also seems undesirable.


Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Restorative Justice programs in schools

A student recommends restorative justice programs in schools. 

Effective policies targeting students’ deviant behavior are desperately sought after in response to increasingly high numbers of suspension and expulsion within schools across the United States. Students attending school naturally come from a widely diverse home environment and unfortunately, many students who lack strong emotional support find themselves struggling to establish and maintain healthy relationships within the school system. Usually, it is these kids who engage in bullying behaviors and “stir the pot” so to speak.

The Restorative Justice program is a revolutionary technique which aims at repairing relationships harmed by students who lack the social skills necessary to successfully handle conflict. This program provides a safe environment within a school system allowing the instigator and the victim(s) to talk through the situation with other support personnel present. Typically, if a school fight has ensued between students, affected students will be afforded the opportunity to meet in a “restorative” circle format and the student who may have provoked the incident will hear how his/her actions affected the other involved individuals. Additionally, the student who provoked the situation will be given the chance to explain their perspective of things and hopefully, verbalize factors that may be contributing to their aggressive behavior; this is when additional services may be provided to the student who find themselves in frequent conflict with others. Normally, the automatic response to students expressing violent behavior is an automatic suspension or expulsion from school. This response is often counter-productive because:
(a) the student is then banned from attending school for specific amount of time, which in turn poses a problem for their working parents;
(b) the student is missing out on school work;
(c) simple suspensions or expulsions do not target the problem behavior and simply act as a ‘punishment’.
One particular school in Oakland, CA has seen a reduction in suspension/expulsions by over 50% since implementing the Restorative Justice program; this is an extremely reassuring statistic indicating the program is successful.

Recently, our own district in Chillicothe, IL has adopted this program, and I am excited to see how it affects students within the district. My own daughter who was in 6th grade last year was subjected to several incidents involving a group of girls who didn’t necessarily “bully” her, but were verbally cruel at times and disrespectful to authoritative figures within the school. After meeting with my daughter's teacher, she admitted to not really feeling like she had much control over the situation because talking to these particular girls parents’ did not appear to do any good; she choose to just ignore the situation and allow my daughter to be miserable at school. This prompted action on my part with the principal and after significant research, I suggested this Restorative Justice program be implemented, to which he responded he had already began looking into it; fast forward to this school year: we now have the program!

If we hope to improve the fabric of our society, the vital areas begin at home—this is most challenging to address—and within the school where school administrators really do have so much more behavior modifying opportunities at their fingertips than they probably realize. I would love to see policies enacted that could involve parents more with the school and even offer parental support groups sponsored by the districts. Problem with that sort of program is funding; Illinois is broke and funds simply aren’t there.

The Restorative Justice program is an effective problem solving technique proving its success throughout several locations across the United States and is continuing to gain popularity. This program provides a strong framework that fosters problem solving skills along with effective techniques to improve social skills. 

There was a good article in The Atlantic late last year about this. I understand that the Springfield School District 186 is also trying to use some of these restorative justice techniques in the schools. One of the race unity groups in town was advocating for this, and I believe some reporting by Dusty Rhodes helped create the public support for it.  It’s a good topic, and it relates to many issues in social work. 

You make some important points I’ll repeat here:
  1. people in schools do not always recognize how they could adopt practices that would (or at least, might) powerfully influence the students in their schools.  People from outside the schools can give support and encouragement, or work with school administrators and school boards to make everyone aware of potential programs that might make a difference.
  2. the technology of “Restorative Justice programs” seem to reduce the behaviors that lead to expulsions or suspensions.  The program seems to target the skill of empathy, helping students feel more compassion for others, while also building social relationships.  It works partly on peer pressure. 
  3. Many students who harm other students at school have serious issues in their home life, and rather than addressing the problems at home or in school, it seems easier to just suspend or expel those students, which is a way of “throwing them away” or letting them take responsibility for their own action.  However, if we put more effort into programs to deal with their emotional problems and help them build empathy and social connection, we may be able to help them, thus rehabilitating them and making the school and classroom climate healthier for everyone. Schools need resources (staff with expertise and time to conduct the programs, and the money to train and pay them) to do this.  All that we need is the political will to allocate resources to this sort of intervention and the administrative skill to see that the practices that work best are actually implemented. 

Ending reliance on Suspension and Expulsion in Illinois Schools with Senate Bill 100

        Reaction Paper about law to end zero tolerance tendencies to suspend or expel students.

In August of 2015, Bill SB 100 was been passed into legislation by the Illinois General Assembly and signed into law by Governor Rauner. Senate Bill 100 was created by the group; Voices of Youth in Chicago due to their concern for children who were not receiving instructional time because of suspensions or expulsions. This new law will require schools to adjust their forms of discipline. They are now required to exhaust every possible form of disciplinary action before expulsion, suspension, or referral to alternative school will be allowed. This was an effort to keep children in school and to minimize the amount of instruction time lost due to suspensions and expulsions by decreasing the usage of those forms of punishment (NCTV, 2016). 

I fully support this bill because suspensions and expulsions seem to be more problematic rather than a solution. They cause children to lose instruction time and fall behind in classwork, which is not beneficial to either the instructors or student. Students may also be getting sent home to unhealthy situations. The root of the problem may be within their household and sending them back there may make it worse. If the disruptive student may be acting out due to bad situations at home, then the school ought to provide a safer and healthier environment where the student can learn and get away from family troubles. 

A site maintained by the Voices of Youth in Chicago mentions the idea of suspension and expulsion being the cause of “pushing students out of the school system and into the juvenile” (Voyce,2014). I agree with this because suspensions can lead to students falling behind and dropping out of school and getting into illegal activity. With this law, schools are required to allow students to make up work that they have missed if they are suspended. 

Bill 100 will hopefully keep students in school and therefore better their chances at a good future. 


It's just a reaction essay, so I guess it's okay that you didn't explore while people might oppose this law, or why the policies of suspensions and expulsions became so widespread and common.  It seems to me that this law requires a complimentary law that helps (and funds) school attempts to make classrooms safe and supportive. I suppose schools will use special classrooms or study rooms and tutoring to deal with discipline problems that have until recently been addressed with suspensions and expulsions.  I suppose when it comes to actual fighting or threats, schools could always just call in police and encourage students and teachers to press criminal charges for assault and intimidation, and let the courts deal with the worst discipline problems.

You didn't put this paper in the context of the general criticism of "zero tolerance" as part of a "school-to-prison pipeline". We know (and we have known for about 25 years) how to identify young children who will be most likely to have discipline problems or end up in juvenile justice detention, and we also know how to provide supports to such children in their schools in ways that drastically reduce their chances of ending up in serious trouble (and causing serious problems for others).  And yet, there has been more political will for locking up people than for doing preventive interventions to reduce behavior problems in schools. 

Does the law provide any extra financing to help schools do preventive work or offer services to help students with behavior problems?

You did not mention that the people who pushed this bill were actual students from Chicago.  This new law is exciting because it came from people who were very young, and in some cases too young even to vote.

SNAP Requirements for Able Bodied Adults Without Dependents

September 17, 2016

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, gives low income families and individuals a monthly payment so they can afford to buy food. There are some requirements that you must meet in order to qualify for receiving SNAP benefits. In order to be eligible for these benefits, you would have to report your monthly income and certain other expenses, and then a caseworker would decide if you qualified as low income, and would use a formula to determine your benefit level. A person who is applying for these benefits must register for work if they are a healthy adult, be fired by no fault of their own, take a job if they are offered one, and participate in employment and training programs assigned by the State. Able bodied adults who have no dependents are required to have a job that gives them a minimum of twenty hours a week. If the person does not follow the requirements, they can be disqualified for these benefits.

I believe that the requirements to be eligible for SNAP benefits are too lenient. When people apply for these benefits, they should have a decent, stable job. If they do not have a job, or they are not at least trying to get one, then they should not receive the benefits because that job could give them more money a month than SNAP would. With that job, they could afford food to feed their families. The people who receive these benefits without trying to better themselves, take the help away from the people with good jobs who just do not make enough money to provide for their families as they would like to. I also think that there should be background checks and drug tests that are done. If people can afford to buy drugs and alcohol, they could just save that money instead. With the money that they would usually spend on drugs and alcohol, they could go to the store and buy some food for their families to eat.

In my opinion, the requirements for the SNAP program should have stricter guidelines. People who want to receive these benefits should have a stable job, continuously try to better themselves, and have regular background checks and drug tests done. This would insure that everyone receiving these benefits truly need them. 

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). (n.d.). Retrieved September 17, 2016, from

You seem to be referring to the work rules for able-bodied adults without dependents.  Some of these rules are explained by the USDA on this webpage.   I will share some passages from that page: 

ABAWDs can only get SNAP for 3 months in 3 years if they do not meet certain special work requirements. This is called the time limit.  
 To be eligible beyond the time limit, an ABAWD must work at least 80 hours per month, participate in qualifying education and training activities at least 80 hours per month, or comply with a workfare program.  Workfare means that ABAWDs can do unpaid work through a special State-approved program. For workfare, the amount of time worked depends on the amount of benefits received each month.  Another way one to fulfill the ABAWD work requirement is through a SNAP Employment and Training Program. 
The time limit does not apply to people who are unable to work due to physical or mental health reasons, pregnant, care for a child or incapacitated family member, or are exempt from the general work requirements.
So, able-bodied adults are able to get food through SNAP for three months in any three-year period, and then it is cut off unless they meet one of three requirements:
  1.  Have part-time work so they get paid for at least 80 hours a month of labor.
  2.  Be participating in education or training activities at least half-time (80 hours per month)
  3.  Be participating in a workfare ("work for food") sort of scheme, such as a SNAP Employment and Training Program. (Participants do get paid with money, not just SNAP benefits.)
There are also exceptions for able-bodied adults (if they are 50 years old or older, or if they have caregiving responsibilities for children or elderly persons).  And persons who aren't able-bodied adults (children, the elderly, or adults who are disable or sick or mentally ill) also are excused from the work requirements. 

You seem to object to the idea that any able-bodied adult would get three months of SNAP benefits in any three-year period, unless they were actively seeking employment. But isn't it the case that people will fall on hard times in transitional periods of their lives? The able-bodied adults who seek SNAP benefits may have recently been laid off, and are actively trying to relocate, or have just relocated, to a new area where employment prospects are better.  It might take a few months to research where to go and find a place to live before one could start a job search in earnest.  Also, adults who receive SNAP benefits do tend to be working already.  To quote from the website about SNAP:
Among households that include someone who is able to work, more than 75 percent* had a job  in year before or after receiving SNAP.  Forty-three percent of SNAP participants live in a household with earnings.  
So, for 75% of able-bodied recipients of SNAP, they have recently worked or soon start working again, and SNAP is there to help them during a transitional time, or else they were low-wage earners and had SNAP, and their SNAP benefits increased temporarily while they were between jobs.  You are concerned about the 25% of SNAP recipients who are able-bodied but have not worked in the past year, and do not work in the year following their time receiving SNAP.

If you are concerned about the 57% of SNAP participants living in households with no earnings, you must remember that this population will be made up mostly of households with single parents and children who need caregiving attention from their parent, or households with a disabled or chronically ill person, or households of elderly persons or persons with mental illnesses.  And many of individuals who get SNAP benefits are children who are too young to work.

As for people with limited resources wasting some of those resources on things that are injurious to their health or possibly illegal, it is true that escapism and problem-avoidance (using substances to get intoxicated) seem common among persons who have poor life skills and end up unemployed or fired from their work.  It's also true that even potentially good employees can turn to bad coping mechanisms when they are feeling depressed or in a bad situation (getting laid off or fired is pretty stressful).  Sometimes in a situation like that, a friend might treat a person to a little party where people get intoxicated.  And, yes, some people are going to get addicted and that may be where their resources go.

It's important to remember that in testing so many people to find and punish those who use drugs, there will be extra costs for administering the tests, doing the lab work, and then the administrative processing when lab tests are positive.  People will need to be able to appeal, because there can be false positives, or explanations for why certain chemicals might turn up in tests.  All the administrative costs associated with tightening the level of investigation of the poor is unlikely to save money for the program.  On the other hand, people who receive benefits (most of whom do not drink or use drugs) might be especially humiliated and upset at the undignified way they are accused of potentially being drug users, and that might be something you want, if your primary goal is to save money, and the spirit of "unreasonable search and seizure" in the Constitution doesn't seem to you a very important right (because you would like to suspend that constitutional right for poor persons as a price they must pay to receive public assistance).

I think in terms of a justice-centered morality, there really isn't any argument against a position that people who could work ought to work rather than collect benefits taken from those who are working. The strongest argument against that proposition is merely conditional.  It goes like this: in our particular society, those who could work ought to be given the freedom to find work that suits them, and while they are looking for such work, they ought to be able to rely on assistance from the working population.  This is proposed as a good thing because of a counter claim about the justice of freedom from oppression.  If able-bodied workers must quickly take jobs, they will be more at the mercy of the owners and capitalists who offer them work, and that will depress the general conditions of workers everywhere, and certainly it does curtail the freedom of the workers who must take unsatisfactory jobs because there is no welfare aid for them when they are able-bodied adults.   In a society where everyone can easily find satisfying work that suits them, then the proposition that able-bodied adults ought to work rather than collect benefits is pretty unassailable, although we might ask how much work effort we really need and expect from them.  But in our society, where many people have great difficulty finding rewarding or suitable work, and the people who control the economy maintain a level of unemployment rate that allows wages to be lower and workers to be a little more desperate and fearful of losing the favor (and their jobs) from their employers... in this actual society there is an argument against your position, but the argument is contextual, not fundamental. 

Reducing the cost of phone calls for Illinois' incarcerated population.

A student reaction paper

Rauner Signs Bill Limiting Prison Phone Call Costs  
Imagine being a parent and being sent to jail.  The only means of communication with your family is by phone.  Each time you pick up that phone the cost is $4.08 for the first 30 minutes.  This fee is paid by you, the prisoner, or the prisoners' family.  Illinois collects $12 million a year in revenue from these calls.  According to the Illinois Campaign for Prison Justice, Illinois collects the largest amount of commissions in the country off of these phone calls.  

The new policy that Rauner signed August 19, 2016, puts caps on what contractor's can charge inmates and their families for phone calls.  Under the new law, the rate cannot go above 7 cents per minute, or .21 cents per half hour.   That's a savings of $3.87.  The article said without regular contact with family members and support while incarcerated, the recidivism rate is much higher.  The projected cost to Illinois taxpayers over the next 5 years is said to be 16.7 billion.    So why wouldn't we do anything in our power to make sure people do not reoffend?  I think this is something we should not even have to think about, the more interaction they have with their families the better.  So not only is this helping the families with their costs, it helps the prisoners with rehabilitation, and hopefully it helps taxpayers with their costs.

Professor responds:
When it comes to laws about how we treat people incarcerated in prisons, there are usually mixed motivations.  The desire to punish is usually a strong motivation, rooted in feelings of lust for revenge, but also rooted in a rational desire to uphold the law and deter others from committing crimes. There is also a motive to remove harmful persons from the general population, to reduce harm for everyone else and protect us.  But, aside from these motivations around punishment, your reaction essay focuses on the other motive, which is to rehabilitate and help incarcerated persons turn their lives around so that when they are released back into the general population, they will not commit crimes again.  There is a similar motivation to help keep prisoners happy and content, so that they will be easy to guard, will not rise up in revolt, and will not cause greater expense through health and behavioral problems associated with miserable conditions.  There is also a humanitarian desire to keep the punishment merely what the law demands (confinement), and not add misery upon the already difficult situation.

The motive to help prisoners turn their lives around has a mix of altruistic and self-interested motives behind it.  It is much less expensive for everyone if fewer people commit crimes and fewer people must stay in prisons, so we want to reduce recidivism.  Also, we want the prisoners to have better lives, and we want their potential victims (if they are not rehabilitated) to avoid the suffering they would experience if the prisoners were not rehabilitated and committed crimes again.

In your essay, you are focusing on how making phone calls more affordable may help the prisoners and may reduce recidivism.  That's good.

A cost of $4.08 for 30 minutes seems high, but not so outrageously high, until you consider how little income a prisoner has, and also consider that at minimum wage, this is about what a worker could earn in 30 minutes.  As I understand the law you have explained, a prisoner could be charged 7¢ per minute for the first three minutes, but then the cost hits the 21¢ per half hour price cap, and the next 27 minutes would be free.   This is far more reasonable.