Too Many Arrests, Not Enough Transparency

Police arrests are too frequent on CPS school grounds, disproportionately affect young black men, and aren’t tracked and reported publicly by CPS as they are in other cities, notes a new report calling for the city council to require such reporting. Are principals too quick to involve police, and is CPS being too slow to share arrest data with the public?  Here’s a sampling of the coverage the report has received:

Advocates say disproportionate number of black kids arrested at Chicago schools WBEZ: If you look at all Chicago arrests of juveniles in 2010, a fifth occurred on Chicago Public Schools property. That’s way too many arrests, according to a report out from Project NIA.

Youth advocates want more data on school arrests Catalyst: A youth advocacy group is calling on Chicago aldermen to pass a student safety act similar to one in New York City that forces the school district to reveal the number of arrests, suspensions and expulsions per school every quarter.

‘Policing Chicago Schools’: Report Suggests In-School Officers Put Teens On Road To Prison Huffington Post:  The group analyzed Chicago Police Department arrest data and found that 20 percent of all juvenile arrests in 2010 took place on school grounds.


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  • Schools and administrators are not responsible for the number of student arrests. The victim or parent makes the decision about pressing charges that are then acted on by CPD when they believe there is enough evidence to arrest.
    There are two stories in today's paper that give people a look at the problems many schools face. One about the number of gangs in Chicago and another about a student attackiing a police officer trying to break up a fight in a school cafeteria.
    Reducing the number of arrests is improtant and believe me administrators do not want to arrest students, but have a responsibility to provide a safe environment for teaching learning. Students can't learn if they are worried about their safety. There are too many good kids in Chicago public high schools who depend on CPS to create a safe place for them to learn. Unfortunately this is a classic tail wagging the dog, a small number of disruptive students disrupting schools.

  • good point, anonymous -- safety is key and disruptive students are a big challenge. what i got from the report was that building admins might have gotten used to (or become influenced by) the CPD way of doing things, rather than finding new ways to hear about and prevent fighting and dealing with it after the fact. a student or parent's decision to file charges is influenced by school staff, as is (or should be) how police officers conduct themselves or decide what to do after the fact in terms of charges. i've seen admins convince officers to put down their pens and release kids to the school for in house discipline, for example. what do you think?

  • It might surprise you to find out that not all members of the school patrol, CPD, are advocates for arresting students. I have been in many conversations with police offers about consequnces other than arrest. This is not new, the minute juvenile records were no longer sealed schools became less reluctant to arrest students. Before that, I admit I thought it was a good scare and had not real long term consequence, because we thought no one would ever be able to see those records. Schools understand the impact of an arrest on the future of a student and try to avoid this practice. Unfortunately, too often, it is unavoidable. I have worked in some of the best and most challenged high schools in CPS.

  • very interesting -- if two kids are fighting, for example, what's the decision-making process on whether to suspend / discipline them in house or to also have them arrested for battery? previous instances, level of physical damage? does it play a role that the arrests go on the kid's records but not, apparently, into the school's report card?

  • In reply to Alexander Russo:

    From what I have seen, it is usally the repeat offenders who are arrested. Restorative Justice
    takes time and manpower.

  • The Student Code of Conduct addresses it under several categories, 2 students no injuries, 2 students with injuries, multiple students. There many variables and at times it is very difficult to sort out, thank god for cameras. Are both students willing combatants or did one try and avoid the fight and defended themself? When gangs are involved it is very important to address it quickly and try and prevent further outbreaks of violence in or outside of school. The improtant thing for a school or dean is consistent application of the same punishment for similar acts of misconduct for all students. The dean must also be able to communicate well with the students, parents, CPS central office and police when necessary. Previous actions, injuy and damage to property do matter and are part of the decion making process.
    Student discipline records are confidential and are not part of the transcript. But you are correct is is part of the school report card. This information is used in determining consequences when a student is refered for expulsion. Don't count on an expulsion unless it was a very violent act or large amounts of drugs are involved. CPS does not have enough alternative school seats available, I understand they are trying to increase that number. Arrests are made when charges are pressed by the victim or yes when a police officer observes a student breaking the law. This most frequently happens, in my experience, whenlarge groups of students fail to dispurse sometimes after a fight in the halls, especially one with multiple combatants or at dismissal.

  • Here is my perspective on this issue of student arrests in schools. I agree that formally the arrests are based on charges being brought by individuals against the student, but because of the Illinois criminal code all altercations involving teachers become aggravated assault even if it is swearing at a teacher. In some cases students with emotional disturbance are arrested: (1) in part because of frustration with the student; (2) a lack of actual support in implementing behavior plans for these students; (3) real fear on the part of the teacher for their safety; (4) and in some cases the fact that the student has been suspended already up to the 10 day maximum allowed by federal law for students with IEPs that lead to a formal meeting of the IEP team called a manifestation
    determination. Some schools in my opinion want to avoid manifestation determination meetings because the actual services on students IEPs are not being provided and it can lead to an advocate like my self pushing for a due process hearing to secure those services.

    Can a principal intervene in these situations? Actually in some cases they set the tone for arrests or a lack thereof in a school. From my own experience at Calumet High School prior to its conversion to a charter school I would say principal intervention in this process is a very complex issue. If teachers begin to feel that the school's principal does not have their back when they are threatened it can create demoralization in the school and set off a break down of enforcement of disciplinary policies by teachers. So teachers have to have confidence in a principal when they are asked to back off an arrest or it can become a big problem.

    I do believe that if teachers and other CPS staff believe a student needs to be arrested they have an obligation to follow through with the legal process and appear at juvenile or adult hearings. In cases of minor altercations where a teacher or staff person is not actually hurt I have found that there is often no follow through by CPS staff and charges are dropped. In my opinion this borders on false arrest and it is wrong. It also sends the wrong message to the students arrested that the entire thing was just a way to get them out of the building and their actions were not criminal. It can increase defiance because if the are arrested they will be released within hours.

    Rod Estvan

  • There probably should be more arrests. HS principals frequently under report violent incidents to keep the onus off of them. Robberies are ignored, weapons are confiscated without police knowledge, drug use and sales are tolerated if they are out-of-sight, and teachers who are assaulted are often told that the school officer will not take a police report, rather that they have to go to the station.

    Restorative justice, peace circles, and peer juries are fine and dandy, but they are not the remedy for gang activity, drug sales, and hyper-violence.

  • In reply to Anonymous:

    Under-reporting of criminal incidents, particularly violent incidents, has a corrosive effect on school climate and serves to encourage further victimization of students and staff. All of this preoccupation with saving offenders from the juvenile justice system, betrays the plight of the many victims of violence in our schools. Violent offenders are not born that way, but learn to be violent by being victimized and traumatized, and then seeing their tormentors escape any consequences of these offenses.

  • This will never happen unless the schools with violent students, (violent parents too) get the wrap-around services and support IN THE SCHOOL everyday. The city could do this--Rahm could do this, but the desire to do this; the understanding to do this, does not exist.

  • In reply to Anonymous:

    Such comprehensive services are desperately needed in elementary/middle schools, where violent and disruptive behavior is learned, because by the time students get to high school, where most disciplinary actions and arrests take place, it is too late.

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