Today’s release of the second and final phase of recommendations from the Mayor’s Leadership Team on School Climate and Discipline is a culmination of over a year of meetings involving a broad base of stakeholders, including youth, parents, educators, city agencies, civil rights organizations, and labor unions.
The Leadership Team signified a commitment from the Mayor’s Administration to address the impact harsh discipline and policing practices are having on young people in schools. Black and Latino students and students with disabilities have historically and consistently been disproportionately targeted in all categories of exclusionary discipline, with Black students overwhelmingly facing harsher discipline.
The Leadership Team’s report issued today includes important recommendations, including eliminating suspensions for K-2nd grade, increasing restorative justice training to cover District 18, and coordinating mental health resources, but it does not provide a much-needed comprehensive strategy to eliminate the racial inequities in school discipline and policing. The newly released school safety data shows we have to fully embrace approaches to discipline that resolve the underlying causes of systemic and individual reactions to normal youthful behavior of Black and brown youth. Persistent racial disparities have not decreased in school policing. Black students currently account for 52% of all students that receive a summons and 63% of all students that are arrested. The majority of summonses are for non-criminal violations that should not result in students being pushed into the criminal justice system. As part of a multi-pronged strategy, the City must create a plan with youth, parents, and educator input to address institutional and individual implicit and explicit biases that contribute to these racial disparities in suspensions and arrests.
If adopted, the Leadership Team recommendation to eliminate suspensions for K-2nd grade will greatly benefit our youngest students, who should be taught appropriate behavior instead of being punished. But we must extend this same principle of teaching appropriate behavior instead of punishing to children in 3rd-12th grades as well. As a starting point for this broader student population, we call on the Department of Education to eliminate suspensions for Infraction B21, insubordination, and mandate not just documentation of guidance interventions, but also the use of such interventions prior to suspension and after multiple classroom removals. For children who need even more support, the City should adopt and fund the Leadership Team’s recommendations to assess and support youth in schools with mental health needs, including using hospital-based clinics to support high-needs schools.
For the first time, reporting on arrests and summonses includes not only interactions with NYPD School Safety Division agents and officers, but counts school-based arrests or summonses issued by any police officer. This new Student Safety Act data does not represent an increase in crime or violence in schools compared to prior years, but rather provides a more accurate account of the number of young people who are unnecessarily referred to law enforcement and have their futures limited and cut short. We must codify changes through the Memorandum of Understanding between the NYPD and the Department of Education to decriminalize normal youthful behavior, including but not limited to Disorderly Conduct, and clearly articulate that misbehavior in schools should be under the purview of school administration.
The Dignity in Schools Campaign – NY is committed to continuing to work with the Mayor’s Administration and all stakeholders that are committed to embracing policies that value the potential and humanity of all young people and to transforming school culture and climate through restorative, healing and trauma-informed practices that help students learn and build healthy and inclusive schools.