Column: Rauner’s bill not helping

Megan Ivey, Staff Reporter

Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) signed a bill August 24 to help reduce school disciplinary rates, specifically with suspensions in public and charter schools statewide. The bill will go into effect September 2016.

The newly signed bill, Senate Bill 100, will force schools to drop any “zero tolerance policy” suspensions, making suspensions and expulsions a last resort. If a suspension does take place, the school must allow students to make up late work.

SB 100 derived from policy originally placed in Chicago public schools. The districts were seeing a disproportionate rate of suspensions between its black students and the overall population.

According to the U.S. Department of Education’s office for civil rights, black students made up 69.3 percent of suspensions in Chicago schools during the 2011-2012 school year, despite being only 41.3 percent of the district’s population.

Chicago schools have found success in this plan, and while SB 100 is being praised nationally for its efforts, I cannot help but wonder if the measure is needed statewide. Was the rest of Illinois experiencing the same disproportional rates?

I am not arguing the imbalance of discipline Chicago is facing, and I am a strong supporter of education equality. However, passing SB 100 is just another case where a city, although large, dominates the state.

Illinois is large and diverse. Data from the U.S. Census Bureau states under 5 percent of the state’s population resides in Chicago in 2014, leaving the majority of the state to take on policies made for a specific area.

Chicago Public Schools were concerned with dropout rates and leading a student down a “school-to-prison-pipeline.”

Students who are repeatedly suspended have a greater chance of dropping out, no matter where the student attends school. If a student is repeatedly suspended, it is either from an unjust penalty or from the student’s own actions.

There should be fairness when disciplining students. I understand the policy is to help bring justice to students by eliminating unreasonable or miniscule suspensions, but it might bring implications for other districts.

I cannot help but compare the policy to what I experienced when I was in high school. My hometown school was in the southern half of the state, a five-hour drive from Chicago, and its dropout rate was low.

For a high school without concerning dropout rates, the restrictions to suspend a student, and then allow for a suspended student to make up their work, results in students becoming even less responsible for their actions.

A suspended student now faces no damaging discipline. What harm is there in having up to three days of no school when grades will not be altered because the work can be made up? It makes it seem like a glorified vacation.

There is no bill that can please all. Although I am glad to see Illinois show effort in building education equality, I can only hope that students who are not facing the same education issues do not take advantage of the relaxed form of suspensions.

 

Megan Ivey is a junior journalism major. She can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]