Urban Youth Collaborative Calls for Urgency in Adopting Transformative School Discipline Reforms


July 21st, 2016

Press Contact: Kesi Foster 646.404.4947 kesi_foster@urbanyouthcollaborative.org

 The Urban Youth Collaborative Calls for Urgency in Adopting Transformative School Discipline Reforms

In response to The Mayor’s Leadership Team on School Discipline and Climate final recommendations and newly released school safety data.

New York, NY (07/22/16)— Today, the Mayor’s Leadership Team on School Discipline and Climate released their final recommendations and the NYPD released new school safety data in accordance with the amendments passed for the Student Safety Act. UYC Coordinator, Kesi Foster, responded to the release. “The Leadership Team has been the most comprehensive effort to address New York City’s School-to-Prison pipeline and it has produced recommendations and programs that if fully adopted, supported, and effectively implemented will have a positive impact on improving school climate for all students. Increasing training in restorative practices for educators, increasing mental health coordination and resources, expanding the warning card pilot, and eliminating suspensions for students in K-2nd grade are important measures that all stakeholders committed to ending the school-to-prison pipeline should embrace and support. 

However, the new school safety data, which takes into account NYPD precinct level arrests and the use of handcuffs and restraints, shows these recommendations will not eliminate deep and pervasive racial inequities in school discipline. While crime is down 5% compared to last year, and 29% over the last 5 years, 1555 students were arrested in 2014-15 and hundreds of students received criminal summons, showing we are still relying too much on criminal consequences for youth. Despite the racialized narrative that our schools are plagued by crime, the truth is our reluctance to break away from policies, practices, and funding priorities continue to criminalize Black and Brown youth and subject them to unnecessary and traumatic contact with the criminal justice system and police. Of the 673 schoolchildren that were handcuffed, over one-third of them were never arrested or charged with any crime. Black students make up 63% of all students that are arrested and 52% of all students that receive a criminal summons, and Black and Latinx* youth make up 97% of all students pushed into the the criminal justice system through our schools. The over policing of low-income Black and Brown communities that results in alarmingly high racial disparities in arrests and summons for low-level “quality of life” crimes is mirrored by the data we see in schools. Half of all students that miss school to appear in court for a criminal summons drop out of school, but New York City continues to give Black and Latino schoolchildren summons for normal youthful behavior that should be handled by school administrators. Transformative change would be completely ending arrests and criminal summons for normal youthful behavior we criminalize Black and Brown youth for.

If our systemic approach to school safety is ever going to be free of racial biases and injustice, we have to radically rethink and transform the policies and practices that perpetuate our current racial inequities and uphold the school-to-prison pipeline. Urban Youth Collaborative/Make The Road Youth Leader Christine Rodriguez remarked, “We must address the racial inequities created by our school discipline policies. Feeling criminalized and unwelcome is a way too familiar feeling for too many Black and Brown youth from low-income communities. There must be a shift in priorities and budgets are a reflection of priorities. We must have a transformative approach to school safety that divests from the over $300 million annually we spend on policing schoolchildren, and invest in restorative justice and trauma and mental health supports in order to create an environment that is welcoming and supportive for every student.”

The recommendations are a step towards progress. Onyx Walker, youth leader with Urban Youth Collaborative/Future of Tomorrow said, “Eliminating suspensions for K-2nd grade is progress, but we have much further to go if we are going to make school welcoming for everyone. We have to expand that same compassion and understanding for youth of all ages, and sexual and gender identities, and we have to break this cycle of Black students being pushed into the criminal justice system, and we have to do it right away. We can’t be afraid of change when it’s needed to give us all a chance at successful futures.”

We look forward to continued engagement and collaboration with all stakeholders to urgently move towards embracing the kind of transformative changes that will ensure our schools offer a path towards successful futures for all youth, especially, Black and Latinx* youth, whose futures are too often cut short by punitive and harmful approaches to school safety.

Latinx* is a gender neutral identifier