NYC Schools Should Look to Federal School Discipline Guidance Released by Departments of Education and Justice

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Shoshi Chowdhury, Dignity in Schools Campaign-New York, 347-832-8391, shoshi@nesri.org

New York, NY - Following today’s release of School Discipline Guidance by the Federal Departments of Education and Justice, students, parents, teachers and advocates with the Dignity in Schools Campaign-New York (DSC-NY) urge the de Blasio administration to take steps to reduce racial disparities in school discipline and require the use of positive Guidance Interventions before suspension in all schools.

Jessica Morillo, a 16 year-old public school student and member of the Urban Youth Collaborative and Dignity in Schools Campaign-NY, said, “For years students across the country have been urging the federal Department of Education to put an end to the school-to-prison pipeline. We are excited that both the Departments of Education and Justice have released this guidance. School districts must end the racial disparities in discipline and implement restorative justice in all schools. Zero-tolerance and over-policing do not make schools safe!  Interventions and supports do! In NYC, we are calling for the new administration to use these tools to create safe, supportive schools for all students.  This is a step in the right direction.”

The Guidance recognizes the pervasive racial disparities that exist and notes that Black students are more than three times as likely as their white peers to be suspended or expelled. The federal government recognizes research which suggests that these disparities “are not explained by more frequent or more serious misbehavior by students of color” but rather by the discriminatory administration of school discipline policies.

DSC-NY is calling on New York City schools to end suspensions for the minor behavior “defying or disobeying authority,” the second most common reason for suspensions and exactly the type of vague and subjective infraction which the federal guidance cautions can result in disproportionate suspension of students of color.

Mathew Guldin, a retired NYC School Dean and member of Teachers Unite and the Dignity in Schools Campaign-NY, said, “The release of the guidance overlaps with Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Farina stepping into office. Perhaps NYC can be the first city to directly work towards clearing up the racial and other disparities in our discipline statistics in response to this guidance. Mandating positive Guidance Interventions before suspension, training educators in alternative approaches and eliminating suspensions for the amorphous and subjective behavior “defying authority” would be a good place to start. Establishing pilot schools, which almost exclusively use positive discipline and restorative justice practices would be a great way to prove that a community-based approach works.”

The Guidance includes an important Appendix with recommendations for schools and districts on promoting positive school climates, providing training for staff, ensuring that students and parents participate in developing and implementing discipline policies, emphasizing positive interventions over removal and ensuring data collection and monitoring of discipline.

The DSC-NY coalition looks forward to working with our Mayor Bill DeBlasio and Chancellor Farina to implement policies that would keep our students in school and out of the court. We need to equip our schools with resources that will help support students not punish them for minor misbehaviors. 

The DSC-NY coalition calls for citywide funding and implementation of positive, school-wide approaches to discipline that improve school climate, reduce conflict, and increase learning. Members include: Advocates for Children of New York, American Friends Service Committee- NY, 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), Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice, Youth on the Move, and Youth Represent..

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