Thursday, December 8, 2016

A student’s editorial in favor of Senate Bill 100 to end the School to Prison Pipeline in Illinois

Senate Bill 100

I have a friend was was a teacher in an alternative school in Peoria; she has since moved on.  She commented to me how kids coming to her school were so damaged and in a sense, many kids are just thrown away for different reasons.  She said it is so sad; the kids just need a chance to learn. They need that attention that they are not getting at home.  So, they act out and end up there, in her class.   

High schools have jumped on the bandwagon of zero tolerance when disciplining students; that way they don't disrupt the "good" kids.  The chance of African American kids being suspended or expelled is much higher. During the 2012-2013 school years, Chicago Schools suspended 32 of every 100 black students, compared to just 5 of every 100 white students.  These kids are then funneled through alternative schools, juvenile justice systems, then finally prison. This has got to stop!  This is known as the School to Prison Pipeline. 

Senate Bill 100 would eliminate the zero tolerance suspension and expulsion rules that are already set in place by the majority of schools.  Senate Bill 100 requires all public funded schools to only suspend and expel students as a last resort when coming across student discipline issues.  Therefore, requiring all schools to exhaust all means of intervention before expelling or suspending for more than three days.  The bill also prohibits fines and fees for misbehavior, and required schools to communicate with parents about why certain disciplinary measures are being used.  

Teaching is not easy; we do expect a lot of our teachers and very little from parents.  It is ridiculous to think that we have lost common sense when disciplining kids today. Why would bringing nail clippers or a wearing a  hair style that is distracting merit a high school student to be suspended? Or why do high schools feel the need the  bring in outside law enforcement to handle trivial issues?   The student now has a record before they are even out of high school!  This bill is long time coming and very much needed.  The cost of Senate Bill 100 in the short term, would be the cost of extra tutors, more qualified teachers, and special education services.  The long significant savings  of this bill, would amount to hundreds of millions when these kids do not end up in our judicial systems.

A key point in the justice argument is that the misbehavior of African-American students is neither quantitatively nor qualitatively worse than the behavior of other children (after adjusting for material deprivation and a few other things that contribute to negative behavior), and yet, when we control for those factors that explain negative behavior including income, the higher rate of discipline remains spectacularly high.  A counter argument you can anticipate is that "African-American students behave more badly more often, and that is why they are suspended and expelled more often" and you can anticipate that point and address it by showing the disparities in expulsion and suspension in Illinois schools was not in line with the differences in disciplinary problems.   

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