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Students, Parents & Teachers Say Changes in NYC's Draft School Discipline Code Don't Go Far Enough to Fix Broken System

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Publication Date: 
May 23, 2012
Organization Title: 
Dignity in Schools Campaign- New York

High suspension rates will continue unless Bloomberg and Walcott take action to require positive alternatives in all schools

New York, NY - Youth, parents, teachers and advocates with the Dignity in Schools Campaign-New York (DSC-NY) are challenging the latest draft of the Discipline Code as not going far enough to address the disproportionate suspension of students of color. To send a clear message that more change is needed, DSC-NY is launching a countdown blog  highlighting a new suspension story each day between now and June 5th when a public hearing on the Discipline Code will take place. 

“Suspending students for minor infractions is wrong and ineffective!  It's denying students access to instruction and graduation, especially Black and Latino students who are disproportionately impacted by harsh discipline practices,” said Justin Ames, a 17 year-old senior at the Morris Academy for Collaborative Studies and a leader with the Urban Youth Collaborative.  

While the draft revisions to the Discipline Code include some positive steps, such as eliminating suspensions for minor behaviors in Level 2 of the Code, the Code still allows for suspension of up to 10 days for Level 3 offenses like graffiti or bringing unauthorized persons to school. The Code also lists 25 infractions in Levels 4 and 5 for which students in grades 6-12 can be suspended for up to one full school year.  

“Missing one or two weeks of school for minor misbehavior, let alone a whole year, can have a devastating impact on a student’s human right to education,” said Liz Sullivan, Education Program Director with the National Economic and Social Rights Initiative “These changes will not go far enough to reduce the more than 73,400 suspensions issued last year. DSC-NY is calling for an end to all suspensions for Levels 2 and 3 of the Code, and for the DOE to require that schools use positive interventions before they can suspend a student for any infraction.” 

Furthermore, while the Code takes the positive step of highlighting alternatives to suspension, such as new sections on Restorative Approaches and Progressive Discipline, the Code creates no obligation for schools to use these alternatives instead of suspension. 

“In my school, I am a peer mediator and a leader at the Morris Student Leadership Council,” said Justin. “We are working to ensure that we prevent suspensions whenever we can by using other positive alternatives like peer mediation and conflict resolution!  We at the Morris Campus want a safe and unified campus, and we believe that restorative approaches, not over-suspensions and harsh disciplinary practices, are the way to go!" 

During the period of September-December 2011 there were 25,246 student suspensions reported, according to new data released by the Department of Education. While this is a decrease from the 27,936 suspensions during the same time period last year, there are concerns with under-reporting in schools and that too many students are still being excluded when positive alternatives to suspensions are being used with great success in other parts of the country. 

DSC-NY is calling for more systemic changes to significantly limit the number of incidents that result in suspension and require the use of positive guidance interventions, like restorative justice, conflict resolution and peer mediation, in all schools. DSC-NY is calling for a 50% reduction in suspensions by September 2013 and is calling on the DOE to:

  1. End all suspensions for minor behavior infractions, like defying or disobeying authority, shoving or pushing, that are listed in Levels 1-3 of the Discipline Code.
  2. Require that schools use positive interventions before they can suspend a student, including for behaviors like fighting listed in Levels 4-5 of the Discipline Code.
  3. End long-term suspensions of more than 10 days.
  4. Fund and implement positive school-wide approaches to discipline in 10 high need schools, including those with the highest suspension and arrest rates, and in each of those schools designate and train a Restorative Discipline Coordinator.

Visit http://stopstudentsuspensions.blogspot.com/ to read a new suspension story posted by DSC-NY each day between now and the June 5th public hearing on the Discipline Code. Every day that we wait for the appropriate changes to the Discipline Code, 260 students are suspended.

On June 5th, join DSC-NY for a press conference and rally before the Discipline Code hearing. The press conference will take place at 5:30pm at Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan.

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), Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice, Youth on the Move, and Youth Represent.

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