School-to-Prison

Black and Hispanic students in New York City most likely to be arrested and handcuffed, data shows

PHOTO: Photo courtesy of the Center for Popular Democracy
Students and advocates held a rally outside education department headquarters last week to call for an end to school arrests and summonses.

More than 92 percent of students arrested in schools last year were black or Hispanic, according to a new analysis — a racial disparity that has persisted even as the city has reduced in-school arrests and summonses.

While just over two-thirds of students are black or Hispanic, they received about 87 percent of criminal summonses issued inside schools, according to an analysis of 2016-2017 school year data by the Urban Youth Collaborative and the Center for Popular Democracy. Just over 1,100 students were arrested and 805 were issued summonses during that period, which spans from July 2016 to June 2017, the analysis of police department data shows.

Black girls were nearly 13 times more likely to be arrested than white girls, while black boys were almost 8 times more likely to be arrested than white boys, according to the groups, which have called for a ban on most school arrests and summonses.

Black and Hispanic students also accounted for 96 percent of students handcuffed during “child-in-crisis” incidents, in which students in emotional distress are removed from their classrooms and taken to a hospital for a mental-health evaluation. The police responded to more than 2,700 such incidents during this period.

Disparities in arrests, and treatment by the police and within the criminal justice system, have been a flashpoint in race relations nationwide, culminating recently in widespread protests within the NFL as football players, and now even team owners, have taken a knee during the singing of the national anthem to highlight the problem. The issue has long been a subject of contention within schools, as has the frequency of involvement by the police in resolving school discipline matters.

An Education Week Research Center analysis earlier this year found that black students are arrested in schools at disproportionately high levels in 43 states and the District of Columbia — possibly because they are more likely than students of any other race or ethnicity to attend schools with on-site police.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has urged schools to adopt less harsh discipline policies and, during his tenure, suspensions have dropped by 30 percent. However, as with arrests and summonses, black students remain disproportionately likely to be suspended.

School safety agents, the unarmed guards embedded in some schools, have continued to arrest or issue summonses to fewer students under de Blasio. But police officers are behind the vast majority of school arrests and summonses, which advocates say is a problem since they are not specially trained in working with students.

In 2016, 60 percent of school arrests were for misdemeanors and 39 percent for felonies; assault and robbery were the most common charges, according to a New York Civil Liberties Union report in May. The majority of summonses stemmed from marijuana possession or disorderly conduct, which covers offenses such as fighting or using profanities.

Advocates want the city to eliminate in-school arrests, summonses, and juvenile reports — which are given to children younger than 16 — for misdemeanors and non-criminal violations. They note that schools already discipline students for those infractions — sometimes with lengthy suspensions — which they say makes it unnecessary to involve the police and courts.

“Clearly there’s an issue with discriminatory policing in schools,” said Kesi Foster, a coordinator with the Urban Youth Collaborative. “It’s also unnecessary policing.”

To push for this change, the collaborative helped stage a rally outside education department headquarters Friday that organizers said drew dozens of students.

The police department press office referred questions to the education department.

Education department officials said they are working to address the racial disparities in harsh punishments. They pointed to several initiatives meant to improve the way schools respond to student misbehavior, including de-escalation training for staff and the hiring of additional guidance counselors.

The agency also helps secure free legal assistance for students who have received summonses, and has included 71 schools in a pilot program where students aged 16 or older receive warning cards instead of criminal summonses for marijuana possession or disorderly conduct.

“Last year was the safest school year on record, crime in schools is at an all-time low, and school-based arrests and summonses are continuing to decline across the city,” department spokeswoman Toya Holness said in a statement.

Fixing Special Education

Parents finally get an update about special education reform at Chicago schools

PHOTO: Chicago Public Schools

Six months after enumerating how Chicago Public Schools has mishandled the education of special-needs students, the Illinois State Board of Education has issued a letter to parents detailing shortcomings in the program and how parents may seek redress.

The school district will mail the state board’s letter to parents, and hand it out next week during report card pickup, state education board spokeswoman Jackie Matthews said. The letter is posted in Spanish and English on both the district and state websites. You can also read it at the end of this post.

The state probe, launched last fall, found Chicago schools violated students’ rights by routinely delaying and denying services, such as speech and occupational therapy, busing, classroom aides, and placement in specialized outside schools.

The letter encourages parents with questions to contact an independent monitor the state appointed to oversee reforms for three years.

It’s not clear why the state took so long to inform parents about the investigation’s findings or their options. Parents have been complaining they hadn’t heard from school officials about improvements.

In early October, Matthews said that the state was finalizing its letter to parents.

Now the state is working with the district and parent advocacy groups to identify students whose rights were violated and may be eligible for measures “to make these students whole,” as the letter puts it.

It advises parents, “if you believe that your child was harmed by the systemic violations identified in the public inquiry, you may have the right to file for due process or file a complaint with ISBE’s special education division.”

To improve special education services, the letter notes, the state has been training district employees about the investigation, how procedures will change, and their roles and responsibilities in special education.

The state and district are training parents about their rights, including a list of low-cost legal providers who can help parents navigate the legal process.

Read the letter below.

 

Payroll Data

Online tool shows who makes the big bucks at Chicago schools

PHOTO: Chicago Public Schools
Former Chicago schools CEO Forrest Claypool made at least $246,154 from the district in 2017.

How much is your favorite principal making?

It’s possible to find out: An online tool offers a look at the paychecks brought home by staff, educators and leadership at Chicago Public Schools.

The Better Government Association just redesigned and updated its public salaries database to provide 2017 numbers for more than 500,000 public workers across Illinois, including at local school districts.

The database shows that last year the Chicago school district spent $2 billion on 49,000 employees who made a median salary of $46,124.

Chicago schools’ highest spending department was the Office of Diverse Learner Supports and Services, which runs the special education program.

The database includes salaries as well as overtime, bonuses, benefits and other forms of extra pay. The Chicago Teachers Union contract lists a base salary of about $51,000 for new teachers, with a pension pickup of $3,546 for a total of $54,199 in compensation.

In 2017, the list of individual earners was topped by Denise Joyce Little, who made$325,999 in total compensation, according to the Better Government Association. She retired in August of that year as senior advisor to former district CEO Forrest Claypool, after 40 years of service at the district, and began receiving payments from a more than $140,000 pension.

The second-highest earner was Parkside Community Academy teacher Sharon Stingley, who made $283,579, and Network 5 schools chief Wanda Juareze Washington, with $246,892. In fourth place was now-disgraced district CEO Forrest Claypool, who made $246,154.

Claypool’s successor Janice Jackson has since gotten a raise to go with her promotion, but in 2017 she had the seventh-highest salary with $206,769.

The database lets users explore the distribution of salaries within an agency like the school district, compare salaries in the same department, and compare the payroll of one government agency to another, among other features.

The association compiled the information with help from DataMade, a Chicago-based civic technology company.