Putting School Suspensions on the Agenda
(Chicago News Cooperative) — A coalition of community organizations pushing for Chicago Public Schools to reduce suspension and expulsion rates could find an ally in incoming schools chief Jean-Claude Brizard, who dramatically cut suspensions during his time in Rochester, N.Y., though some criticized Brizard’s methods for doing so. By switching all short-term suspensions from out-of-school punishments to in-school punishments, Brizard lowered the district’s suspension rate from 15 percent to 2 percent in his first full year running the Rochester school system. But because in-school suspensions are not counted in the suspension rate, critics of Brizard in Rochester say the numbers changed, but the policy did not fully address behavioral problems. “The whole goal here was to solely to lower the numbers. Whether the kid shows up or not, it doesn’t matter,” said Jonathan Hickey, treasurer of the Rochester Teachers Association. “With a different cover on it, it was still just a suspension.” Chicago has one of the highest suspension rates in the nation, an analysis of 2008 data by Catalyst Chicago revealed. Chicago’s suspension rates, which also do not count in-school punishments, have nearly doubled over the previous five years. In 2008, roughly 13 out of every 100 students in CPS were suspended, according to the Catalyst study.