DSC-NY Parents Speak Out on Racial Inequality in School Arrests

Data released by DSC-NY earlier this month has shown that the number of arrests and tickets issued in New York City public schools continued to decline during the first quarter of 2013. Concern remains, however, with data indicating Black and Latino students disproportionally face the consequences of the NYPD's school discipline policies.

The new data shows that of 157 arrests and 206 summonses issued between January 1 and March 31, 91 percent of arrested students were Black or Latino.

The disproportionate arrest rate of Black and Latino students requires immediate action. The NYPD and DOE must acknowledge these racial disparities and work together to reevaluate policy regarding arrests and school suspensions.

The New Settlement Apartments Parent Action Committee, a member organization of the Dignity in Schools Campaign-NY, is looking to reduce school-based arrests and summonses in the Bronx.

Esperanza Vazquez, a leader with the Parent Action Committee in the South Bronx and a parent of two children, testified at the Discipline Code Hearing on June 6 that nothing has changed from last year.

"If school arrests are affecting Black and Latino communities, it's also because schools in these communities have fewer resources, and there's a lack of training for educators on peer mediation or other restorative practices in the school," said Vasquez.

"It would be a positive step if the Department of Education would set up a Restorative Justice Coordinator position in each school to coordinate and support the students – right now, there's one counselor for a thousand students," continued Vasquez. "There aren't enough resources to implement the ideas in the discipline code. We've heard enough words, we want action!"

On May 30, the New York School-Justice Partnership Task Force released its report highlighting the racial disparities in arrests and summonses and calling for a new mayoral-led initiative that would limit SSA's and police from intervening in school discipline matters to keep kids in school and out of court.

According to the Advancement Project (2010), "arrests in school represents the most direct route into the school-to-prison pipeline," a set of conditions that facilitate criminalization within educational environments, and result in the incarceration of young adults.

According to a report issued by the Children's Defense Fund (2011), Black females and males represent 17 percent of the youth population ages 10 to 17, but are 58 percent of all juveniles sent to adult prison.

Studies have found that in schools where the population of students is predominately African American or Latino, educators and administrators perceive a "racial threat," which has been shown to affect their reactions to problematic student behaviors (Welch & Payne, 2011; Brown & Beckett, 2006).

Lynn Sanchez, a parent of two public school children and a leader with the Parent Action Committee believes there are serious issues in schools that need to be addressed.

"We need an equal or greater number of social workers to School Safety Agents – right now there are thousands more police officers than social workers in our school system, why?" asked Sanchez. "We need to move away from the punishment mentality and towards restorative, holistic approaches to working with children, so that our children are receiving the social and emotional services they need."

Rosalia Sierra, a mother of three children in public schools claims, "statistics don't illustrate the practicies that have led to the numbers we now see."

"Without programs and more social and emotional supports, what is the difference for our youth, and for moving towards the creation of safer schools?" said Sierra. "It is necessary to have positive discipline programs in every school because that is how we reduce the possibility of students getting arrested or suspended."

Research being conducted across the country has shown that restorative practices can reduce suspensions and arrests and improve the climate for learning (González, 2012; Sumner, Silverman, & Frampton, 2010).

DSC-NY advocates for district-wide adoption and implementation of restorative practicies, so as to prevent the perpetuation of racial inequality in our public schools. 



Works Cited:

Advancement Project. (2010) Test, Punish, and Push Out: How “Zero Tolerance” and High-Stakes Testing Funnel Youth Into the School-to-Prison Pipeline. Washington, DC.

Brown, L. & Beckett, K. (2006) The role of the school district in student discipline: Building consensus in Cincinnati. The Urban Review, 38, 235-256.

Children’s Defense Fund. (2011) Portrait of Inequality: Black Children in America. Washington, DC. Available:

González, T. (2012) Keeping Kids in Schools: Restorative Justice, Punitive Discipline, and the School to Prison Pipeline. Journal of Law and Education, 41(2), 281-335.

Nolan, K. (2011) Police in the Hallways: Discipline in an Urban High School. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.

Sumner, M., Silverman, C., and Frampton, M.L. (2010) School-based Restorative Justice as an Alternative to Zero-Tolerance Policies: Lessons from West Oakland. Berkeley, CA: Thelton E. Henderson Center for Social Justice, University of California, Berkeley School of Law.

Sundius, J., & Farneth, M. (2008). Putting kids out of school: What’s causing high suspension rates and why they are detrimental to students, schools, and communities. Open Society Institute, Baltimore.

Welch, K. & Payne, A.A. (2012) Exclusionary School Punishment: The Effect of Racial Threat on Expulsion and Suspension. Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice, 10(20), 155-171.