Time for Restorative Justice in Our Schools

Zaire Kiran Agostini

Zaire Kiran Agostini, the author

Being a black girl in New York schools is hard—the stereotypes and biases we face are painful, and often overlooked. Too often, they lead to suspensions and arrests of young people like me that take us out of school and push us toward the streets, prison, or worse. Now is the time for New York State to take action to address the damage being done by out-of-touch school discipline policies.

When teachers or administrators look at girls like me talking with my friends, they look at us like we are always about to cause trouble. If we speak up for ourselves, they say we’re being defiant. Even when we are having fun together, like joking around and dancing, they view our behavior as inappropriate. And then, too often, they discipline us.

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New York charter wars enter a school safety phase

New York charter wars enter a school safety phase

With little new education policy expected in the remainder of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s first term — and a quiet session on education concluding in Albany — the debate over traditional public schools versus charter schools has shifted to a new battleground: school safety.
The contentiousness of the debate was on full display over the last two weeks, as a pro-charter school group filed its second lawsuit alleging a “crisis” of violence in the city’s schools — after which leaders of the city’s education and police departments spent consecutive days reassuring reporters that city schools are safer than ever.
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The dispute has been percolating for months, as union leaders, pro-charter groups, civil liberties advocates, parent leaders, students, teachers and principals have re-framed their ongoing debate about the quality of the city’s schools around the safety of the 1,800 schools run by the Department of Education.
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STUDENT VOICES Why should schools move away from suspensions? We asked student activists to weigh in

Why should schools move away from suspensions? We asked student activists to weigh in

Not long after Zaire Harley started high school, a guidance counselor pulled her aside and asked whether she’d like to do a “circle.”

Though the counselor had never met Zaire, he’d heard that trouble was brewing between her and a girl who believed Zaire was gossiping about her. Zaire agreed to the circle, which turned out to be a space for the girls to sit down with the counselor and a teacher’s aide and discuss the feud.

“After the meeting there was no problem,” said Zaire, a ninth grader at Nelson Mandela School for Social Justice in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. “It stopped both of us from getting suspended.”

Zaire Harley

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Opinion: The Danger of Overhyping Danger in NYC Public Schools

CityViews: The Danger of Overhyping Danger in NYC Public Schools


School safety officers meet with the mayor in 2014.

Last week, the hedge fund backed pro charter school advocacy group Families for Excellent Schools (FES) filed a lawsuit against New York City public schools claiming that the civil rights of black and Latino are being violated because “violence” is out of control in our public schools. This organizations lawsuit and campaign is a slap in the face to the black and Latino parents, educators, community members, and especially young students that have fought for decades and continue to fight for racial justice and civil rights in public education. It is appalling, that in 2016, a white led organization claiming to represent black and Latino communities could so callously use their resources and influence to further dehumanize and criminalize black and Latino children.

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Eliminating The School Discipline Box on College Applications




UYC youth leader Miaija Jawara talks to the Associated Press about the impact of colleges using school discipline history for admissions decisions.

“They are basic yes-no questions that ask whether a college applicant ever got into trouble in high school. Yet they’re anything but simple, say some who want run-ins at school or with the law taken out of the college admissions equation.

Advocates, school districts and even some colleges share concerns about youthful mistakes haunting students into adulthood, especially minority students, who federal statistics show are suspended and arrested at disproportionately higher rates than their white peers.”

Ban the School Discipline Box