Young people in Chicago who have been through
the criminal justice system face plenty of obstacles when they get out, but educational attainment might be the biggest one. According to a new report by the American Sociological Association, “Among Chicago adolescents...73 percent of those arrested later dropped out of high school compared with 51 percent of those not arrested." That’s a 22 percent difference.
The report looks at laws and school policies that are intended to deal with ex-offenders in schools and how, intentionally or not, they’re decreasing the likelihood of graduation for these students.
The federal No Child Left Behind Act calls for for better learning environments in schools that are “persistently” unsafe. On the surface this seems like a good thing: safer schools, safer children, more learning. But schools in Chicago have begun to push out ex-offenders in order to comply with the law. The report states, ”Indeed, Mayer (2005) reported, on the basis of interviews with expert informants in the Chicago Public Schools (CPS), that the primary reason principals work to exclude criminally involved students from school is accountability.”
In Chicago Public Schools, accountability means keeping grades and graduation rates up. It also means keeping out students who could endanger those numbers. One way of keeping young offenders out of Chicago schools is expulsion. If a student commits what is considered a “Group 5” or “Group 6” crime on or off campus, the school has the power to expel them. Group 5 crimes include aggravated assault, burglary and theft, or displays of gang affiliation. Group 6 crimes include robbery, murder and use of firearm.
Some students who are expelled and on release from juvenile hall, are placed in Alternative Safe Schools.
In other cases, students may continue to go to school after having been arrested, but mandatory court dates can lead to missed classes, lower grades, and even being held back or dropping out.
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