NYC Education Department Getting Input on Proposed Discipline Reforms Including Cutting Length of Suspensions
Michael Elsen-Rooney, New York Daily News, July 8, 2019
Students, parents, teachers, and activists are weighing in on Department of Education proposals to change how schools mete out discipline, including lowering the cap on the number of days a student can be suspended to 20 from 180.
The feedback came in a forum last week at Harlem’s Frederick Douglass Academy. The Education Department is holding a series of public meetings before making final recommendations on discipline reforms later this summer.
Officials said long-term suspensions, disproportionately given out to Black, Hispanic, and special education students, unnecessarily keep students out of class and don’t change their behavior.
Of about 37,000 suspensions last year, four percent were for more than 20 days.
Officials said an alternative approach to discipline called “restorative justice” would help with concerns like Walden’s.
That approach, which emphasizes restitution and community building when a student acts up instead of punishment, would be introduced to 175 middle and high schools under the proposed changes.
Even before schools officials began considering reforming the discipline code to reduce the length of suspensions, they’d begun informally bringing suspended students back quicker. Suspensions of more than 20 days dropped from nine percent of overall suspensions two years ago to only four percent of suspensions last school year.
Many city schools have already adopted restorative justice on their own or with the help of nonprofits, and four districts (Districts 5, 12, 16, and 18) have implemented a pilot version of the approach district-wide. But the expansion will be the first time the approach reaches all city middle and high schools.
The reforms would also include related guidance for school safety officers and an infusion of 85 new social workers to intervene before students face suspensions.