Press

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Educators call for an End to Suspensions for Minor Infractions

December 15th, 2014

http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/brewster-rubenstein-school-suspensions-ruin-students-liv-article-1.2043589

Suspensions for low-level infractions are jeopardizing the education of many New York City children, and they must stop now.

Because the city’s public schools have, over many years, failed to invest in proactive, positive approaches to discipline, they continue to use suspensions to deal with minor infractions.

The result? Thousands of students, punished rather than properly supported, drop out of school and end up unprepared for a successful future.

If this doesn’t change under Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Carmen Fariña, who have talked repeatedly about the need to serve all kids, it probably never will.

The use of harsh discipline has produced a culture in which we don’t help students to learn from mistakes — we just kick them out. And when we suspend students, we actually increase the likelihood of future behavior problems.

Youth suspended just once in ninth grade are twice as likely to drop out of school compared to their peers. Students who are suspended or expelled for a “discretionary action,” such as defying authority, are nearly three times more likely to have contact with the juvenile justice system.

We’re not talking here about a tiny universe of serious troublemakers, but about a sizable chunk of the student population.

According to the Department of Education, there were 53,504 suspensions in New York City during the last school year. Black students make up about 26% of the student population, but were 53% of those suspensions. Students with special needs or disabilities make up 19% of our students but were 36% of the suspensions.

And guess what? The most common reason for suspensions in New York City was “Infraction B-21: Defying or disobeying the lawful authority or directive of school personnel.”

Translation, in many cases: Talking back to a teacher or principal.

What we have here is the stop-and-frisk of school discipline policies. It might have been conceived as a neutral policy, but that’s not the way it plays out in practice. While the Department of Education Discipline Code outlines a range of nine possible responses to a B-21 infraction, far too often the response is still a suspension.

Ending this is not a new or unprecedented idea. As the body of national discipline research has grown, school systems around the country have started recognizing the logical inconsistency of pushing students who need to learn out of the schools that provide them an education.

Just last year, the Los Angeles school district — second largest in the U.S. behind New York’s — banned suspensions for “willful defiance.” Since then, suspensions have dropped 40% for black and Latino students.

What’s the better approach? Restorative justice programs that challenge students to take responsibility and make amends for their behavior, creating a safer and more positive environment for everyone in the school building. We should also roll out conflict resolution, collaborative problem-solving, peer mediation and mentoring programs.

We often are told we don’t have the resources, training or time to handle conflict and discipline in a constructive way.

And yet we do have about $200 millionto place thousands of School Safety Officers in our schools. In fact, there are more School Safety Officers in New York City schools than guidance counselors.

We all desire and need the kind of transformational change in New York City that will ensure a quality education for all of our children. Let’s stop trying to suspend our way out of the problem.

Brewster is a community coordinator at James Baldwin High School, a transfer school in Manhattan. Rubenstein is a special education teacher at a Brooklyn transfer high school. Transfer schools are for students who have previously dropped out or fallen behind in credits.

EXCLUSIVE: City Council members want Mayor de Blasio to fix school discipline code, which they say is biased

July 7th, 2014

Erin Durkin, Daily News

Five council members want to end suspensions for what they call vague and poorly defined infractions that unfairly target black and Latino males. They want Mayor de Blasio to overhaul the discipline code for city schools.

City Council members are pushing Mayor de Blasio to overhaul the discipline code for city public schools and cut down on suspensions.

In a letter to de Blasio and city Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña, five pols are seeking to end suspensions for what they call vague and poorly defined infractions that unfairly target black and Latino males.

“Stop-and-frisk has disproportionately criminalized young men of color on the streets of our city, and harsh disciplinary practices are doing the same thing in our public schools,” they wrote. “It’s unfair and it’s wrong.”

The authors — City Councilmen Ritchie Torres, Rafael Espinal, Antonio Reynoso, Donovan Richards and Carlos Menchaca — say they “have experienced these biases firsthand.”

A city Education Department spokeswoman said the administration has been meeting with advocacy groups and educators to address the issue.

Principal to Chancellor: Take the Lead on School Discipline

June 9th, 2014

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 have available).

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.

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Segregation: Six Decades Dead In Court, But Still Alive In Many Schools

June 9th, 2014

Claudio Sanchez, NPR

Sixty years after Brown v. Board of Educationblack 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.

Cientos protestan por la igualdad educativa en EEUU

June 9th, 2014

María Peña, La Opinion

Washington – Con megáfono en mano y el apoyo de centenares de manifestantes, la estudiante dominicana Jessica Morillo de El Bronx denunció frente a la Corte Suprema de Justicia de EEUU las malas condiciones de las escuelas públicas y la falta de igualdad de oportunidades para las minorías.

A cuatro días del 60 aniversario del histórico fallo del Tribunal Supremo en el caso“Brown v. Board of Education, que prohibió la segregación de las escuelas públicas, Morillo y más de un centenar de padres, maestros y estudiantes exigieron la protección del dictamen y el cumplimiento de su promesa de igualdad para todos.

Para Morillo, activista del grupo Urban Youth Collaborative, poco ha cambiado desde 1954 porque estudiantes negros y latinos asisten a escuelas privadas de recursos y oportunidades.

“Quiero ser enfermera pero en mi escuela en Nueva York no hay consejeros que nos ayuden para ir a la universidad… la falta de recursos hace que muchos estudiantes se desanimen y terminen en la cárcel, en vez de una universidad”, dijo Morrillo, que cursa el penúltimo año de secundaria en El Bronx International School.

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