Violence on the rise inside Chicago high schools

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In the past year, violent incidents inside or on the grounds of Chicago’s high schools rose by almost 20 percent, with students committing aggravated battery, bringing weapons to school and fighting with staff at an alarming clip.

 

In the past year, violent incidents inside or on the grounds of Chicago’s high schools rose by almost 20 percent, with students committing aggravated battery, drug-related offenses and fights with staff at an alarming clip.

And over the past three years, there’s been a nearly three-fold increase in the rate of category 4, 5, and 6 violations—the most serious violations of the school district’s discipline code—from 5,762 in the 2006-2007 school year to 15,094 in 2008-2009.

The beating death of Fenger High’s Derrion Albert has brought national attention to the problem of teen violence. Derrion’s murder took place off school grounds.

After submitting two Freedom of Information Act requests over the past year, I finally received a school-by-school breakdown of code violations on Wednesday. I am still in the early stages of analyzing and reporting on the data and will be writing updates in the coming days. A call and e-mail to CPS spokeswoman Monique Bond were not returned by late Wednesday.

Some of the difference might well be due to better reporting through the district’s new student information system, called IMPACT. I’ve been told that IMPACT provides a more accurate picture of what happens in schools and that, if anything, the old system under-counted misconduct reports. The figures also jibe with a steep increase in the number of suspensions, which we reported in the May/June issue of In Depth.

In announcing his safety and security plan, CEO Ron Huberman has refused to name the 45 high schools whose principals will have access to extra resources to create what he has called a “culture of calm.” But this data shows that many schools are having serious problems with violence: 43 percent saw increases in the rate of serious misconduct last year.

Fenger High, for example, has had a high rate of code violations for a number of years, but the rate has soared over the past two years. In 2006-2007, the rate was 16 for every 100 students; last year, it rose to 25.3.

The two turnaround high schools also have not been immune to problems. Harper High in Englewood saw a big jump, from 18 per 100 students to nearly 40. Meanwhile, Orr had a rate of 20 per 100. (It is harder to look at the change in the rate at Orr, which until last year was three separate schools.)