Revised School Disciplinary Code Encourages Counseling, Protects Special Needs Students

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Guidelines for the 2013-2014 school year state that counseling and mediation 'must be considered' by school staff when students engage in misconduct.
Ben Chapman, NY Daily News, 08/18/2013
Education officials are taking a more sensitive approach to student misbehavior for the upcoming school year with a newly revised disciplinary code.
The 2013-14 version of the city’s annually updated guidelines, which will take effect next month when classes resume, include new rules to encourage the use of counseling, reduce bullying and protect students with special needs.
Education Department spokeswoman Margie Feinberg said the changes were meant to promote a better learning environment in the public schools for the city’s 1 million students.
“This year we created a new code to track bias-based harassment,” said Feinberg.
The agency’s disciplinary standards were overhauled by educators during the 2012-13 school year, and parents and students weighed in on them at a June public hearing.
One significant change to the code states that counseling and mediation “must be considered” by school staffers when students engage in misconduct.
The new rules also contain a separate disciplinary category for instances of harassment which are motivated by bigotry, making it easier to start a paper trail on schoolyard bullies, officials explained.
Yet another change will compel principals and administrators to consider the medical diagnoses of students with disabilities who violate school rules.
Parents and students weighed in on the overhauled disciplinary standards at a public hearing in June.
School officials have leeway in choosing how to punish students who misbehave and educators said the revised codes would promote positive changes.
“I applaud the city for bringing more attention to bullying and placing a greater focus on issues faced by students with special needs,” said Hunter College education professor and former city principal Ben Shuldiner.
But some advocates said the reforms fell short by failing to mandate the use of counseling or other positive interventions for all student disciplinary cases.
“It’s a missed opportunity,” said Jamie Koppell, a member of the New York Chapter of the Dignity in Schools Campaign. “Until we see radical changes, we’re not gaining ground.”
The 32-page document, which is posted online, also contains new clauses to prohibit electronic cigarettes from schools and prevent students from unauthorized digital recordings.
The rules slap students who use electronic smokes with the same punishments faced by kids caught smoking, including detention or being yanked from class.
Kids who make unauthorized digital recordings at school could face similar repercussions.

Originally published here