School-to-prison pipeline: Chicago at the tipping point - New York News

School-to-prison pipeline: Chicago at the tipping point

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

CPS students' families say kicking misbehaving students out of school makes a bad situation -- worse. They call it a school-to-prison pipeline.

The security chief at Chicago Public Schools agrees and says she wants to keep more kids who get in trouble in school.

14-year-old Tavion Hodges doesn't like to recall the last time he got suspended from his Chicago Public School. Tavion's mother, Chicona Hodges, will never forget it - though it was one of dozens of times her sons were put out between the third and the sixth grade.

But this time, her youngest son was in the sixth grade and he was arrested for making a gun gesture toward a teacher that he felt like was treating him unfairly.

"They told me I had to go to the office, so I run down the hallway beating on lockers," Tavion says.

"From there, he was arrested," Chicona explains. "He was taken out in handcuffs in front of the entire school, taken to the police car."

The mother and son know he misbehaved, but the constant suspensions were not changing that. In fact, researchers say interrupting the education of a disruptive kid is just the push they need, to head in the wrong direction.

"You missing out on a lotta stuff, and they just gonna be, ‘okay, well I might as well just drop out,'" says Adeola Matanmi, who was suspended from CPS. "It just leads to some more negative things. You're out of school for a long time."

"And it kinda messed up my record because my grades, and my scholarships," says Daniel McCurthy, who also has first-hand experience with being suspended from school. "I got cancelled for my scholarships and everything."

SuspensionStories.com shares real cases of public school discipline and statistics show that discipline is anything but even handed.

According to a national study, one of four African American public school students in this state were suspended at least once in the 2009-10 school year -- 14 percent more often than their white classmates.

And last year in Chicago, 75 percent of students arrested at school were African American

The new security chief at CPS knows there's a problem. New training for security officers is just part of her plan to reduce suspensions and take a more "holistic" approach; keeping kids in trouble, in school.

"And there's a lot of practices I'm sure you've read about, peace circles, peer-to-peer intervention, those are the kind of things that we're trying to incorporate into this process," CPS Security Chief Jadine Chow says.

Tavion's mother couldn't wait for that. She moved her children out of the city.

"He's doing very well now," Chicona says of her son. "I'm very proud of him. He just graduated from 8th grade. He's preparing to go to Evergreen Park High School."

It hasn't been perfect, but she no longer feels her boys are being prepared for jail.

A child who learns differently can still succeed.

"With a strong support system, from home, and school, and people who care, yes, I think that they will," says Jadine.

If you think your child is being pushed out instead of helped out, Roosevelt University's Mansfield Institute for Social Justice and Transformation has advocates that will bring the legal heat. For more information, visit their website here.

Project NIA announced the release of a new report titled "Policing Chicago Public Schools: A Gateway to the School-to-Pipeline." Visit the Project NIA website for more information.

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