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Unruly students need their own school, teachers' union president says

by Adam Wren
Oct 01, 2009

Adam Wren/MEDILL

 Teachers' union president Marilyn Stewart speaks to business and civic leaders about her plan to launch a school for unruly students.

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Specifics of Stewart’s alternative school plan:

  • CPS students identified as chronically unruly would be immediately directed to the alternative school.
  • Students placed in the alternative school would receive attention from specially trained teachers, administrators and staff.
  • If their behavior improves, students could return to their schools the following year.
  • Stewart pointed to Innovative Concepts Academy, an alternative school in St. Louis, as a template for the program. She said that school cost about $2 million after local businesses helped cover some of the costs.


Problem children throughout Chicago Public Schools would be removed from their classrooms and placed in a new alternative school for chronically disruptive students, under a proposal by the head of the teachers’ union.

Under a plan proposed by Chicago Teachers Union President Marilyn Stewart Thursday, students prone to unruly classroom behavior would be transferred to an alternative school staffed by specially trained teachers and administrators.

Stewart said her plan would improve learning for students in grades six through 12, and help teachers do their jobs in a district that experts say loses half of its teaching force every five years.

“A teacher can’t teach, and students can’t learn in a constantly disruptive classroom,” Stewart told members of the City Club of Chicago, a group of civic and business leaders gathered at Maggiano’s Banquets at 111 W. Grand Ave. on Thursday.

Stewart made a distinction between the rash of violent crimes that have claimed the lives of CPS students in recent weeks and garnered media coverage, and what she called the two-ton elephant in the room: students assaulting teachers and peers, and other disorderly behavior in the classroom.

“It’s time to take some action here in Chicago – not just to eliminate the violence and shootings, but to end the chronic classroom disruptions that cripple the education process,” Stewart said. “It can be done here. It must be done here. Enough is enough.”

Stewart said a pilot program aimed at reaching several hundred students could be launched as early as next school year and, if successful, expanded throughout the school system. She estimated the plan could cost approximately $2 million.

Alternative schools already exist in the district, Stewart acknowledged, but she said these schools would target at-risk students who have not yet been identified as criminals.

The proposal comes on the heels of a $30 million anti-violence program spearheaded by Chicago schools CEO Ron Huberman and rolled-out last month.  Huberman’s plan is designed to intervene in the lives of the district’s most at-risk youth by offering them mentoring and a job, in addition to redirecting money for increased security at the city’s most violent schools.

“If we can spend $30 million on an anti-violence program,” Stewart said, “then we can find $2 million to start an alternative school for chronic classroom disrupters.”
School officials could not be reached for comment.