Jesus Velazquez got involved with a group fighting against suspension and expulsion after he went through an expulsion hearing for having a marijuana pipe. Instead of being expelled, he was sent to an intervention program. [Photo by Michelle Kanaar]

Threatened with expulsion

CPS says it wants to lower expulsions. But a new policy allows schools to send students threatened with expulsion directly to alternative schools, even before a legal hearing.

Drug policy should focus on teaching, not punishment

Jesus Velazquez got caught at school with a marijuana pipe in his backpack. What happened next is exactly what shouldn’t take place if a school district’s goal—or, from a larger perspective, a community’s goal—is to get kids who make dumb mistakes back on track. Jesus was suspended for 10 days, referred for an expulsion hearing and sent to a diversion program instead of being expelled. He ended up failing most of his sophomore classes and is now facing a fifth year in high school. Surely this was a case in which a non-punitive response—mandatory drug education or participation in community service—made better sense. 

Kelvyn Park High School students have differing opinions on how the school should deal with drug use. One says suspension just gives students more time to get high. But another says the staff should be more strict so students will be deterred from using. [Photo by Bill Healy]

Quick to punish

Students caught with an ounce or less of marijuana are more likely to be arrested in school than a student who starts a fight or steals. Hundreds of teens are arrested each year for drug offenses involving pot—offenses that may warrant only a ticket for adult Chicagoans.