One Giant Leap: VOYCE’s School Discipline Bill Clears Committee
Ineffective “zero-tolerance” policies, other punitive practices would be replaced by nationally recognized best practices throughout the State
SB 100, a bill that would eliminate overly harsh suspension and expulsion practices advanced out of the Senate Education Committee today. Illinois has one of the widest disparities between suspended black and white students in the country, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. Although just 41% of Chicago Public Schools students are black, 75% of all out-of-school suspensions in 2012-13 were handed out to black students, who were also 30 times more likely to be expelled than white students. Based on the most recent available data, Illinois students are losing over one million instructional days per year as a result of suspensions, expulsions and arrests.
The bill, which was crafted by the youth-led Voices of Youth in Chicago Education and introduced by Sen. Kimberly Lightford (D-Maywood), prohibits “zero-tolerance” disciplinary policies. It allows for the use of out-of-school suspensions and expulsions only as a last resort. It also promotes professional development and training for school staff to ensure developmentally appropriate disciplinary practices. Tyrek Williams, a junior at Roosevelt High School and a VOYCE leader has spent the last six months talking to legislatures and attending meetings to get this bill passed. In 7th grade, Tyrek was suspended for three days because he did not have his glasses, and could not complete his work. “ I was sitting in class, but I couldn’t see anything. I was talking to other students trying to get help on a huge project that was due that day. The teacher told me to stop talking, so I did, but I couldn’t do any work, so I just sat there and did nothing.I was eventually kicked out and suspended for three days.” Tyrek added, “If this bill would have been law back then, I would have never gotten suspended, and I would have not lost three days of school just because I didn’t have my glasses on that day in school.” Tyrek is hopeful that the bill will become law. “This bill will pass and it needs to right away!”
Voices of Youth in Chicago Education (VOYCE) is a youth organizing collaborative for education and racial justice led by students of color from community organizations across the city of Chicago such as Communities United (Convening organization of VOYCE), Logan Square Neighborhood Association, Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, and Southwest Organizing Project. VOYCE’s work is driven by the belief that young people who are most directly affected by educational inequity are in the best position to develop meaningful, long-lasting solutions.