Violence & Education: Innovative models

Innovative Models, Innovative Models — By on January 2, 2011 11:47 pm

Innovative approaches to making schools safer for young women involve youth in leadership roles, and in identifying their own solutions; and advocacy and organizing for systems change.  Several communities in Chicago are engaged in campaigns to create safer schools. This section also features important and innovative policy efforts to impact school safety.


Gender JUST (Justice United for Social Transformation) is a grassroots organization led by Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Allied, and Gender-Non-Conforming young people of color and allies building power and developing leadership by organizing for racial, economic, and gender justice.

Chicago Public Schools anti-discrimination policy to include Gender Identity & Expression.Gender JUST’s campaign for Safe & Affirming Education is focused on making Chicago Public Schools safe for LGBTQ youth.  Working in partnership with other organizations, the young people have won the establishment of a student grievance process and an expansion of the CPS anti-discrimination policy to include Gender Identity & Expression.  You can see a video of the youth in action, protesting at Chicago Public Schools, here!


Like Gender JUST, the grassroots community organization Blocks Together in West Humboldt Park asked young people what the solution was to create safer schools.  The youth felt that alternatives needed to be developed to zero tolerance policies, and proposed expanding the use of restorative justice approaches.  In 2010, Blocks Together won a groundbreaking agreement from Chicago Public Schools to train security guards at 5 public schools in restorative justice practices.

The Taskforce supports this campaign, and one of our central recommendations to Chicago Public Schools is to continue to work with Blocks Together to implement this groundbreaking program.


The Ensuring Success in School Initiative promotes successful school completion among children and youth who are parents, expectant parents, or survivors of domestic or sexual violence.  With a growing drop-out/push-out crisis in Illinois, the Initiative focuses on contributing factors to this crisis that receive insufficient attention and that disproportionately, although by no means exclusively, impact girls and young women.

In 2003, the Shriver Center brought together advocates, educators, social workers and others to discuss, research and strategize around this problem. The decision was made that this statewide problem needed a statewide solution. As a result the Ensuring Success in School Act (ESSA) was introduced in the Illinois General Assembly in 2005. The bill addressed issues such as confidentiality, accommodations (e.g., for student safety), suspension and expulsion proceedings, home instruction, school transfers, excused absences, and the need for specially-trained personnel to act as the “go to“ person for both students and school personnel. Although it did not pass that year, the introduction of the bill led to greater awareness of the issues and fruitful conversations with state legislators, representatives of school districts, school administrators, school social workers, and teachers unions.

Another ESSA bill was introduced in 2007. The bill that passed that year has two provisions. First, it created the Ensuring Success in School Task Force. The duties of the Task Force included an examination of the barriers to school attendance, safety and completion, and the identification of effective policies, protocols and programs. The Task Force held public hearings around the state and heard testimony from students, their parents, advocates, and educators. A report to the Illinois General Assembly of the findings and recommendations was submitted in June 2010 and can be found on the Shriver Center website. Second, the bill mandated training for teachers and other school personnel. At minimum, school personnel must be trained to understand, provide information and referrals, and address issues pertaining to students who are parents, expectant parents, or survivors of domestic or sexual violence.

The Ensuring Success in School Coalition was reconvened in 2010 after the Task Force submitted its final report. The coalition is currently working to develop a strategic action plan based on the findings and recommendations in the Task Force’s Report and to complete the curriculum for school personnel.


On June 27, 2010, Governor Pat Quinn signed the Prevent School Violence Act (105 ILCS 5/27‐23.7) into law. The Prevent School Violence Act PSVA) boasts several “firsts” for Illinois. The law:

(1) Explicitly prohibits bullying behavior in schools and states that bullying is prohibited against students in a number of enumerated categories, including sexual orientation and gender-related identity and expression. States with enumerated laws and schools with enumerated policies more effectively protect all people.

(2) Comprehensively defines bullying, as well as when and where it is prohibited. Importantly, the PSVA recognizes that “bullying” encompasses the broad spectrum of relational aggression, including bullying (such as the anti-gay bullying and attendant suicides that have captured the attention of the media) and school violence (such as the beating death of Dereon Albert). When all students, families, school personnel and management work from a shared understanding of bullying, we will begin to fully understand the scope of school violence and its solutions

(3) Charges both public and non-sectarian schools (K-12) with developing an anti-bullying policy and, every two years, updating and submitting it to the Illinois State Board of Education.

To study bullying and school violence in Illinois and the best practices for preventing relational aggression, the PSVA created the Illinois School Bullying Prevention Task Force (Bullying Task Force). In the spring of 2011, the Bullying Task Force will submit a report to the General Assembly, recommending a comprehensive plan for addressing bullying and school violence at the state, district and local levels, through policy change, comprehensive professional development for all school personnel, youth leadership and participation, eliminating punitive discipline and attention to the social and emotional education of students.

The Prevent School Violence Act (PSVA) is the result of an initiative of the Illinois Safe Schools Alliance, in partnership with the more than 70 organizations statewide that make up the Prevent School Violence Illinois (PSVI) coalition.  Since its passage, PSVI has been supporting the work of the School Bullying Prevention Task Force (Bullying Task Force), which was created by the law to recommend comprehensive solutions to the problem of bullying and school violence and related issues such as punitive school discipline.  After the Bullying Task Force submits its recommendations to the General Assembly, PSVI will begin the work of implementing those recommendations to add to and complement related efforts to ensure the development of ideal conditions for learning in all Illinois schools.