Brady Smith, Gotham Gazette
“Our schools are learning places. They’re not suspension places,” said Chancellor Fariña to a room full of principals this past Saturday. Could this mean real change in the way we view students in the classroom?
In Los Angeles schools, they call it “willful defiance”; elsewhere, “insubordination.” InNew York City, “B21″ or “defying or disobeying lawful authority” is the second most common reason students are suspended in school each day (based on the data we haveavailable).
Last year in New York City schools, black students, who comprise less than a third of the student population, served more than half of the suspensions citywide. Students with disabilities, making up twelve percent of the student body, served a whopping thirty percent of principal and superintendent suspensions. Are our black students or students with special needs more disruptive, or more dangerous, than their white peers? No.
Claudio Sanchez, NPR
Sixty years after Brown v. Board of Education, black and white children still attend segregated schools in many parts of the country. Majority black schools are less likely to have good teachers, and kids there are more likely to be poor. That, experts say, is the single biggest obstacle to their academic success.
Molly Knefel, Rolling Stones Magazine
When Marlyn Tillman’s family moved from Maryland to Georgia, her oldest son was in middle school. Throughout his eighth grade year, he was told by his school’s administration that his clothing was inappropriate. Even a simple North Carolina t-shirt was targeted – because it was blue, they said, it was flagged as “gang-related.”
Things got worse when Tillman’s son got to high school, where he was in a small minority of black students. While he was in all honors and AP classes, he received frequent disciplinary referrals for his style of dress throughout ninth grade and tenth grade. Frustrated, his mother asked for a list of clothing that was considered gang-related. “They told me they didn’t have a list, they just know it when they see it,” Tillman tellsRolling Stone. “I said, I know it when I see it, too. It’s called racism.”
María C. Fernández, New York Times Opinion
To the Editor:
“Zero Tolerance, Reconsidered” points to a national trend to end the criminalization of young people in our schools.
In New York City, during the 2012-13 school year, there were more than 53,400 suspensions. Black students made up almost 53 percent of those suspensions, when they make up only 27 percent of the student population. Although we’ve seen a decrease in suspensions, the racial disparities have not changed.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and Carmen Fariña, the schools chancellor, can do what the Bloomberg administration didn’t: End harsh disciplinary policies; mandate and finance restorative justice programs and guidance interventions in all schools; end suspensions for “defying authority,” a vague, catchall infraction; train school staff systemwide to handle discipline; and revise the memorandum of understanding between the New York Police Department and the Department of Education to return school safety to the hands of educators.
The mayor’s stated commitment to addressing this issue is encouraging. Now is the time for action. New York City must lead the national movement to end the criminalization of our students.
MARÍA C. FERNÁNDEZ
Urban Youth Collaborative
New York, Jan. 7, 2014