Thanks to the organizing work of Voices of Youth in Chicago Education, the Illinois legislature has passed a new law requiring public reporting of school discipline data. SB2793 is a huge victory and a step toward ending the discriminatory use of suspensions and expulsions.
Students of color and students with disabilities are far more likely to be barred from the classroom, often for minor, nonviolent misbehaviors. In the 2009-2011 school year, one out of every six black students were suspended at least once, compared to one in twenty white students. For black students with disabilities, the suspension rate jumps to one in four.
Once a student is suspended, it increases the likelihood that they become disengaged from school and drop out, which in turn can increase the chances of them getting involved in the juvenile justice system. This discriminatory "school-to-prison pipeline" is a critical factor in the achievement gap facing students of color across the nation.
The new Illinois law is the first of its kind in the nation. It requires public reporting of suspension and expulsion data, broken down by race and ethnicity, gender, age, grade level, limited English proficiency, incident type, and discipline duration. Additionally, the districts that fall in the highest 20 percent of discipline rates will have to create an improvement plan to address the overuse and disparate use of school discipline.
To learn more about the new law, read this editorial from the Chicago Sun Times.