SWOP is a co-convener of Voices of Youth in Chicago Education (VOYCE). VOYCE is a youth organizing collaborative for racial justice and education reform led by students of color from community organizations across the city of Chicago.

Since student leaders launched VOYCE in 2007, our vision for change has been driven by the belief that those most affected by educational inequities – the students themselves – hold the solutions to creating a high-quality education system. Using innovative, youth-led research, an equity lens and action, VOYCE brings students together from across the city to push for systemic changes that ensure every Chicago student has access to an excellent education.

Through VOYCE, SWOP has developed a strong base of youth leaders from institutions on the Southwest Side of Chicago like Morrill Elementary and Gage Park High School. Through young people’s personal experiences of being impacted by Zero Tolerance Policies and their desire to change the status quo, SWOP has been instrumental in VOYCE’s work to end the use of harsh discipline policies that push students out of school and into prisons.

Recently VOYCE passed Senate Bill 100 that requires sweeping changes in the use of punitive school discipline practices across the state. Senate Bill 100 was passed with bipartisan support and represents perhaps the most aggressive and comprehensive effort ever made by a state to address the “school-to-prison pipeline.” SB 100 prioritizes the creation of safe and orderly schools while seeking to address excessive use of the most severe forms of discipline. Under the legislation students can only be suspended, expelled or referred to an alternative school if all other “appropriate and available” alternatives are exhausted. In other words, suspensions and expulsions become the last resort, rather than the first response.