SOUTH SHORE — An annual study of school-based crime in Chicago shows that, despite some improvement, not much has changed in what the report describes as a "school-to-prison" pipeline.
The report, "Policing Chicago Public Schools," compiled by Project NIA and students at Loyola University, says that while school-based arrests decreased between 2011 and 2012, black students disproportionately made up the majority of arrests.
"As I see it, [the school-to-prison pipeline] is all of the different ways that we push kids out of school ... including using the police in schools that used to be managed by staff," said Mariame Kaba, a co-author of the report. "It's the reality that many young people are being pushed out of schools and into the criminal justice system."
Overall, school-based arrests decreased from 4,959 in 2011 to 4,287 in 2012. Black students disproportionately made up 75.5 percent of the arrests in 2012 despite making up 42 percent of CPS' overall headcount, according to the report.
In 2011, 74.5 percent of arrests were of black students, though the Chicago Police Department denies the report's claim of disproportionate arrests.
"The only consideration involved in police enforcement action is public safety," said Adam Collins, a Police Department spokesman.
Arrests outside the schools but still on school grounds made up about 14 percent of all arrests in 2011 and 2012. In-school arrests accounted for 85 percent of all arrests in both years.
Roughly 16 percent of arrests were felony charges, according to the report. Battery charges accounted for the most arrests on CPS property, closely followed by narcotics, assault and public peace violations.
Kaba said that the transition of thousands of students as a result of the CPS-ordered school closures will likely "be higher next year, it's clear to me," she said, adding, "We better pay close attention."
Instead of putting youths into the legal system, which Kaba said only increases a teen's chances of encountering more legal problems, the authors of the report support "restorative justice" methods, including peace circles, family conferencing and victim-offender mediation.
"It's meant to focus on finding root causes and then to figure out how to repair that harm that doesn’t rely on a criminal legal solution to address big problems," Kaba said.
"Our big push is that data helps policy change. We want people to see the numbers," said Kaba.