Amid Growing Outrage Against Mayor Bloomberg’s Heavy-Handed “Zero Tolerance” Discipline Policies, Students Call on Next Mayor to Implement Positive Alternatives
On Monday, April 15th, 2013 at 11 AM, New York City Democratic mayoral candidates John Liu, Bill Thompson, leaders from the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) and citywide elected officials stood with students, parents and teachers on the steps of New York’s City Hall, to call for an end to racial disparities in school suspensions and arrests. The press conference, brought together by the Dignity in Schools Campaign- NY (DSC-NY), and joined by the citywide coalition New Yorkers for Great Public Schools, called on the next Mayor to end the racial disparities by implementing positive approaches to discipline like Restorative Justice programs, that will keep young people in the classroom and out of the streets and the juvenile justice system.
Under Mayor Bloomberg’s administration, policing and zero-tolerance discipline policies in city schools have pushed children out of the classrooms and into the criminal justice system. These policies and practices disproportionately affect children in low-income communities of color.
DSC-NY is demanding the Department of Education continue to reduce the number of suspensions, and fully fund and implement positive school-wide approaches to discipline that improve school climate, reduce conflict and increase learning.
At the press conference, student advocates, local elected officials, and two mayoral candidates, demanded that the DOE invest in training and support for school staff who want to implement alternatives to suspensions and arrests, like Restorative Justice, that are proven to keep school communities safe and create positive learning environments.
“The number of suspensions and arrests may have decreased, but for black and Latino students, the feelings of being criminalized have not. As a student leader and a peer mediator, I believe there should be, and `there must be, positive approaches to discipline that keep students in the classroom. In my campus, the Morris Campus in The Bronx, students, teachers, and all four schools’ administration have all agreed that our campus needs to be restorative, and we have seen what these positive approaches have done: build campus unity and support for students,” said, Alisha Izquierdo, a 17 years old youth leader of Urban Youth Collaborative (UYC) and Dignity in Schools Campaign-NY.
“This past year 69,643 students received suspensions and 882 were arrested, over 90% of students were Black and Latino. This is not right! We need a mayor that will commit to working with us to end these racial disparities and implement solutions, like funding Restorative Justice in our schools,” said Benia Darius, student at Bushwick School for Social Justice and member of New Yorkers for Great Public Schools.
“Most New Yorkers would be shocked to learn that the Bloomberg police state for Blacks and Latinos is not limited to adults subject to the City’s un-American stop-and-frisk program but actually begins with elementary school students as young as the age of four. For the sake of all public school students, especially our students of color, we need to move away from the ‘zero-tolerance’ philosophy, which relies too heavily on punitive measures, and invest in programs that offer students positive approaches to discipline and the real social-emotional support they need,” said NYC Comptroller and mayoral candidate John Liu.
“Instead of working to resolve conflicts and create conditions in which all students can learn and thrive, we’re suspending students far too often, and black and Hispanic students especially,” said candidate for mayor Bill Thompson. “Our primary goal must be to foster a learning environment that gives all students a chance to succeed, and as part of that we need to help students resolve conflicts in the making instead of simply punishing them after the fact.”
“This cannot be a Tale of Two Cities where students in one school get supportive services while those in another get the book thrown at them. It’s time to end this disparity and make sure students—regardless of race, income or disability—are provided with positive approaches to discipline that help keep them in the classroom and off the street. Parents don’t want to see school discipline outsourced to the police or to the emergency room. I won’t stand for it my son’s school or in any other child’s,” said Public Advocate and mayoral candidate Bill DeBlasio.
“Ultimately the DOE can reduce suspensions; that’s not the hard part. But without real culture change in the schools and a real commitment to peer intervention and de-escalation techniques, we are just playing games with numbers,” said UFT president Michael Mulgrew.
“The recent data released in February shows a decrease in student arrests and summonses, this decrease is a step in the right direction, but our work will not be complete until the data is zeroed out and mentoring climates are the norm in our schools. We cannot allow our learning institutions to be breeding grounds for the school to prison pipeline that haunts so many of our Black and Latino youth,” said, Councilmember Robert Jackson, Chair of the Education Committee.
The Dignity in Schools Campaign-New York consists of the following organizations: Advocates for Children of New York, 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, Urban Youth Collaborative (UYC), Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice, Youth on the Move, and Youth Represent.