NYC DOE Should Listen to Students, Parents and Educators on Changes to Discipline Code; Prevention and Guidance Interventions Make Safer Schools

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 20, 2013
Contact: Shoshi Chowdhury, Dignity in Schools Campaign-NY, (347) 832-8391, shoshi@nesri.org

New York - Today, the NYC Department of Education (DOE) is accepting final public comments on changes to the 2013-2014 Discipline Code. The Dignity in Schools Campaign-New York (DSC-NY), a coalition of students, parents, teachers and education advocates, is calling on the DOE to make changes aimed at reducing suspensions and to mandate and invest in positive alternatives and guidance interventions.

In the suspension data released for the 2011-2012 school year through the Student Safety Act, the DOE provided information by infraction type for only about half of the total suspensions. Among those suspensions, 35% were given for just two Level 3 infractions—defying or disobeying authority and pushing, shoving and engaging in minor altercations.  DSC-NY is calling for an end to suspensions for these minor Level 3 behaviors and to require the use of proven, Guidance Interventions instead.

The NYC DOE lags behind other districts like the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), which since 2007, has required the use of Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) in every school, and which voted last month to ban suspensions for “willful defiance.” National research shows that these minor, discretionary infractions like willful defiance or defying authority generate disproportionate suspensions for Black and Latino youth. In New York City in the 2011-2012 school year, while Black students made up only 28% of the student population, they received 53% of suspensions.

The new draft of the Discipline Code up for review still allows suspensions of up to 5 days for “defying authority” and up to 10 days for other Level 3 infractions, like pushing or shoving, and does not include a citywide mandate for schools to use positive alternatives to suspension. The Code also lists 29 infractions in Levels 4 and 5 for which students in grades 6-12 can be suspended for 30 to 90 days, and 27 of those infractions can lead to suspension for a full school year. DSC-NY is also calling for an end to all long-term suspensions of more than 10 days.

While the DOE has taken steps to address the disparity of students with disabilities who are suspended every year, the Discipline Code does not go far enough to ensure that these students are provided with the necessary supports to stay and succeed in school.

The time is now for the DOE to get serious about addressing the city’s disproportionately high suspension rates among Black and Latino youth as well as those with disabilities . The DOE must bring an end to a culture of harsh discipline practices that favors the use of suspensions, expulsions and arrests of students instead of keeping them in school and on a path to college and meaningful employment.

The DOE is accepting public comments to the Code through Thursday, June 20 at Lherrer@schools.nyc.gov.

The Dignity in Schools Campaign-New York is a coalition of students, parents, educators, civil rights, students’ rights and community organizations, including: Advocates for Children of New York, Brooklyn Movement Center, Center for Community Alternatives, Children’s Defense Fund-New York, Coalition for Asian American Children and Families, Coalition for Gender Equity in Schools, Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM), Future of Tomorrow, Make the Road New York, Mass Transit Street Theater, National Economic and Social Rights Initiative (NESRI), New Settlement Apartments Parent Action Committee, Pumphouse Projects, Sistas and Brothas United, Teachers Unite, The Sikh Coalition, Urban Youth Collaborative (UYC), YAYA Network, Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice, Youth on the Move and Youth Represent.


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