Anti-violence rallies were held Wednesday at each of the 110 Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Safe Haven summer program locations across the city.
The rallies were attended by thousands of parents, children and others who delievered an anti-gun violence message.
"We wanted to hold this rally before the Fourth of July holiday to allow the voices of children attending Safe Haven to be heard," CPS' Chief of Community and Family Engagement Phillip Hampton told DNAinfo Chicago. "There are many safe haven sites located in communities challenged by violence and we want all of the program sites to stand in unity."
All of the Safe Haven sites are churches, which house free programs meant to keep school-aged children off the streets and engaged in educational activities throughout the summer, according to CPS. The summer program, which kicked off June 30, runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday until August 8th.
Also today, CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett and Mayor Rahm Emanuel released data from a new University of Chicago Crime Lab analysis, claiming that this past academic year "was the safest on record since CPS started tracking student safety data in 2007", according to their joint announcement.
“Over the past three years we have made great strides to turn around the decades-old zero tolerance policy in our schools that took students out of the classroom and funneled them to the criminal justice system, even for minor misbehavior,” said Emanuel. “Today, we’re keeping students in the classroom where they belong, and ensuring they can focus on their studies instead of their safety. This is just the beginning and we have a long way to go, but we’re making real progress for our children.”
Here are some specific pieces of data outlined in the announcement:
- More than 27,000 fewer out of school suspensions—a 33% drop in out of school suspension rate
- Nearly 1,300 fewer CPS students referred for expulsion—a 37% drop in the referral for expulsion rate
- More than 1,000 fewer in-school arrests of CPS students—a 35% drop in the in-school arrest rate
- 49 fewer CPS students who were victims of shooting—a 25% drop in the CPS student shooting victimization rate
- A 12% drop in the number of students who were victims of homicides, including a 50% drop over the prior school year
However, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis took issue with the assertion that the past academic year was as safe as the new data indicates:
There is a serious disconnect between what CPS is saying and what is being reported from the schools. You can't appropriately deal with disciplinary infractions and behavior issues without social workers, counselors, etc., and instead of expanding those positions, they are cutting them -- making schools less safe and secure for students and staff. While we applaud efforts to decrease suspensions and expulsions, this has to be done along with providing the resources necessary to address inappropriate student behavior and enact restorative justice programs that enable students to address personal trauma, anger and conflicts. The University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research data shows that the very schools that CPS lauds for lowering disciplinary infractions are rated by students and staff as having unhealthy climates and cultures within the building.
Any drop in homicides is positive news and reassuring to thousands of our families who've been impacted by violence across this city, regardless of race and class. But such spin provides no solace for those who continue to live in school deserts and war zones. Though the mayor may believe he’s made minor progress, there is still a need for comprehensive wraparound services in our schools. Instead of cutting school nurses, psychologists, counselors and social workers, CPS should be adding them and finding new ways to support our public school families.
Lastly, it shouldn’t be lost on anyone that this so-called decline comes when the mayor and his handpicked school board has closed 50 neighborhood schools, suspended scores of our students and siphoned many more off to privately held charter operations. CPS still has not accounted for all of the students impacted by these closings. Where have they gone; and, what has happened to them?