The number of students arrested in Chicago public schools dropped 13 percent last year, the same year the district faced scrutiny from parents for “criminalizing” student misconduct such as fights and talking back to the staff, the Chicago Tribune reports. About 7,400 students were arrested in the 2005-06 school year, down from 8,500 in 2004-05. In 1999, arrests topped 8,900. The decline was driven largely by a dramatic reduction in students charged with simple battery, a misdemeanor for a fight that doesn’t involve weapons, attacks on staff members or serious injury.
On some campuses, the drop reflects a genuine improvement in safety; in others, it reflects an emphasis on intervention–rather than arrests–when students fight. “Many schools are paying more attention to fights before they get to the point where someone gets hurt, before it escalates to a level where you have to call in police,” said Andres Durbak, director of safety and security. The district started focusing last year on the 20 high schools and 20 elementary schools with the highest arrest rates to determine why some school officials referred so many violations to police. Two uniformed police officers work full-time in every high school; the officers typically consult with officials before arresting students.