June 20, 2019

Educators for Excellence-New York Reacts to Announced School Discipline Reforms in New York City Public Schools

June 20 (New York) — Educators for Excellence-New York (E4E-New York), a teacher-led organization, reacts to the announcement by Mayor Bill de Blasio and Chancellor Richard Carranza regarding school discipline reforms limiting the length of the longest suspensions, a renegotiated memorandum of understanding with the New York City Police Department that narrows the scope of when and why students can be arrested by the police while in school, and investments in expanding proven restorative justice programs.  

"When it comes to school discipline reform, educators focused on equity and justice constantly ask - where is the real change? Today, we got the Mayor’s answer that they are starting to deliver the help and support we need,” said E4E-New York member Leton Hall, a middle school science teacher at Pelham Gardens Middle School in the Bronx. “Everyday I work to ensure that students in my classroom feel safe and welcomed - no matter their color or ability status. Unfortunately, I know that once my students of color and students with disabilities leave my care they sometimes encounter educators, administrators or law enforcement who do not know them well and may regard them solely as disobedient, or worse, a threat, which can lead to a harsh, punitive reaction that escalates, rather than diffuses the situation. These rule changes will ensure that all New York City Public Schools employees will not only take a smarter, more effective approach, but also be provided with the support necessary to transform our approach to discipline so every student can feel safe and welcome in our schools.”  

“Educators can’t teach in chaos, and every year they ask for the same thing -  school discipline reform that will ensure every student is treated fairly and every teacher has the support they need to shift the focus of discipline from punishment to learning,” said Paula L. White, Executive Director of E4E-New York. “That is how we break the school-to-prison pipeline. The incremental improvements on the memorandum of understanding with the NYPD, which limits the lengthiest suspensions and significant investments in restorative programs,  are how the Mayor and Chancellor can back up their lofty rhetoric with real movement toward a better system for teachers and students. This is a significant step forward and Educators for Excellence-New York will continue to work with and advocate for additional investments to ensure that the city follows through on the promises it made to students and educators today.”

Educators for Excellence-New York members have advocated for reforms to school discipline since their 2015 policy paper, Climate Change. Their recommendations and advocacy have focused on the following:

  • Expanding and investing in proven training and support that help educators transition from punitive discipline to restorative practices.;
  • Limiting the length of out-of-school suspensions and suspensions for low-level offenses that disproportionately affect students of color - such as insubordination, dress code and willful disobedience; and
  • Banning the use of out-of-school suspensions for students in kindergarten through third grade.

Starting in 2015, E4E-New York members advocated through letter writing, hosting town halls with Chancellors Fariña and Carranza, petition signature gathering, and workgroup participation at the city and state level to make these changes a reality. Previous wins include:

  • Limits on the length and why students in kindergarten through second grade can be suspended in New York City Public Schools;
  • Inclusion of student suspension rates in New York’s Every Student Succeeds Act accountability plan;
  • The expansion of New York City Public Schools’ District 18 Restorative Justice Pilot program to three additional districts.

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