Parents worried about law that makes it harder for schools to expel problem students

CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) - A new state law designed to make it harder to suspend or expel students for fighting has some parents worried.

Last night, FOX 32 first told you about a series of fights captured on video at south suburban Crete-Monee High School. That district has already begun following a new law that goes into effect in September designed to discourage schools from dumping problem students.
FOX 32's Dane Placko reports on the new law and why supporters believe kicking a kid out of school is the worst thing you can do.

A viral video showing students brawling at Crete-Monee High School has prompted parents to demand stronger action from the school district.

"I think it needs to be stopped. I think better discipline policies need to be in place,” one parent said.

In years past, Crete-Monee would have suspended students for fights. But the district's superintendent says that's now changed.
"The new laws that come from the state of Illinois through SB 100 prevent people from using no tolerance policies,” said school Superintendent Nate Cunningham Jr.

Senate Bill 100 was signed into law by Governor Bruce Rauner last summer and goes into effect this coming September. It’s a sweeping reform of school discipline policies, designed to make it much more difficult for schools to suspend or expel students for bad behavior.

"These exclusionary discipline practices were not helping youth. They were actually harming them by taking them out of school,” said Jessica Schneider of the Chicago Lawyers Committee.

Schneider and youth activist Maria Paula Degillo were among those who worked to help pass the bill. They say more than a million days’ worth of instructional time is lost to suspensions in Illinois each year, disproportionately by students of color and often because of zero tolerance policies that don't make common sense.

the law requires schools to exhaust alternative strategies like counseling and mentoring or other forms of discipline before kicking a kid out of school.

"Really at the end of the day it's about sitting down with the student and understand what are you going through that you're so angry that you have to fight someone,” said student activist Maria Paula Degillo.

But lawmakers who voted against the bill say school discipline shouldn't be dictated by the state.

"I'd rather have the locals who are making these decisions be able to continue to make these decisions locally than having them have to report to Springfield,” said State Rep. Jack Franks.

Although the new discipline law doesn't go into effect until the beginning of next school year, a number of districts in Illinois are trialing the program, including Crete-Monee. The law does allow districts to immediately suspend students for very serious infractions like criminal felonies.

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