Rally to Protest High Number of Suspensions in City Schools
Mary Frost, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 10/04/2012
Roughly a thousand kids are suspended every week in New York City schools and advocacy groups say these suspensions are unnecessarily harsh, especially for black and Latino students.
This Friday night, members of the Dignity in Schools Campaign New York (DSC-NY) will hold a candlelight vigil and march across the Brooklyn Bridge to protest the suspensions. About a dozen groups are involved, including Advocates for Children of New York, American Friends Service Committee, Children's Defense Fund and Make the Road New York.
Dignity in Schools says the suspensions are derailing learning and increasing the dropout rate, and wants DOE to implement alternative policies that focus on resolving conflict.
Deputy Chancellor Kathleen Grimm testified last December that at least 45,939 students — or 4.5 percent of the city’s student population — were suspended during the 2010-2011 school year. (This number doesn’t include schools suspending less than 10 students, and DSC says the figure is closer to 70,000.)
Black students -- who make up a third of the student population -- received half of the total suspensions.
Even little children are being sent home. More than 6,000 elementary school-age students were suspended in the 2008-09 school year – almost double from 2002-03, the New York Civil Liberties Union reported.
During the 2010- 2011 school year, at least 814 suspensions were issued to students in third grade or below.
Kids are getting suspended and arrested “for things that a generation ago would lead to a discussion with a parent," Udi Ofer advocacy director of the New York Civil Liberties Union told Gotham Gazette last year. Gotham Gazette gave the example of a 9-year-old being suspended for asking a classmate if she would share her candy with him. Her friends reported him to a safety officer, complaining that he had approached their table “aggressively.”
The suspension was ultimately dismissed, but the boy was reportedly “terrified the whole time.”
The city says it’s working on the problem. In August, New York City School’s Chancellor Dennis Walcott said that the rules surrounding suspensions were easing. “Our goal is to make sure the schools are providing a safe environment for our students, but also we just don’t push students out of the classroom where they’re not learning as well,” he said in a statement.
DOE made changes to the School Discipline Code, highlighting the use of interventions such as parent conferences, and giving principals more flexibility.
The new 2012 School Disciplinary Code states, “Every reasonable effort should be made to correct student misbehavior through guidance interventions and other school-based resources and the least severe disciplinary responses.”
Still, students can receive suspensions at the discretion of the principal, and can be removed from school for months for behavior that does not result in serious injury.
The city classifies misbehavior from Level 1, the least harmful, to Level 5, “seriously dangerous or violent.”
Being late to school, a Level 1 infraction, may result in detention, but not removal. At Level 2, being rude or disruptive could result in removal from the classroom, but probably not full suspension.
Many Level 3 behaviors can result in suspension: wearing gang apparel, using school Internet for non-educational purposes, engaging in vandalism or graffiti or possessing stolen property, for example.
Level 4 behaviors – bullying, starting a fire, or possessing drugs, for example – would likely result in suspension, as would dangerous Level 5 behavior.
Friday’s march is part of the 3rd Annual National Week of Action on School Pushout, where marches and teach-ins in 20 cities nationwide to raise awareness about the more than three million students suspended out-of-school each year.
Originally published here.