May 24, 2017

Educators for Excellence-New York Releases Statement on NYS Assembly Education Committee Vote to Advance School Restorative Justice Bill

Teacher-Led Advocacy Group Lauds Assemblywoman Nolan for Addressing Criminalization of Discipline Strategies

May 24, 2017 (New York) – Today, the New York State Assembly’s Committee on Education voted out of committee A.3873, a bill introduced by Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan (D-Queens) to reform school disciplinary practices throughout the state. Maryanne Kiley, Executive Director of Educators for Excellence-New York (E4E-New York), a teacher-led organization, and Claudia Whittingham, an E4E-New York teacher member, released the following statement in support of the legislation:

"New York Assembly Bill 3873 will change the course for a generation of students by ensuring schools work with families to promote positive discipline strategies and social emotional learning; practices collectively known as restorative justice," said Claudia Whittingham, special education teacher at PS 59 in Brooklyn and member of E4E-New York. "Restorative justice is the first step toward addressing the criminalization and marginalization of young people. When schools criminalize identity, they destroy lives. When schools bring hope, they can transform. This bill brings hope."

“We are thankful to Assemblywoman Nolan for addressing this critical need in classrooms across New York. Too many schools employ overly punitive discipline methods – such as detentions and suspensions—which are ineffective, unjust and disproportionately affect young people of color. This bill will bring us one step closer to closing the school-to-prison pipeline. Today’s vote is vital to ensuring young people of all backgrounds are able to learn in a safe and supportive environment,” said Maryanne Kiley, Executive Director of E4E-New York.

E4E-New York earlier this month sent a letter to the New York State Board of Regents, urging them to consider school climate as an indicator of school quality under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) during their meeting on May 8, 2017. In the letter, E4E-New York also urges the state to support schools that need funding for restorative practices, school-wide positive behavioral interventions and supports and counselors or social workers.

In 2015, E4E-New York also published Climate Change, a teacher-written policy paper that offered recommendations on how to create a more student centered, non-punitive discipline system. These recommendations include:

  • Supporting teachers by expanding trainings in areas that promote positive school culture and expand teacher career ladders dedicated to establishing positive school cultures.
  • Supporting students with a required 250:1 student to counselor ratio and re-integration plans for students suspended for more than five days.
  • Supporting schools by creating competitive grant programs to incentivize schools and districts to adopt non-punitive approaches, such as restorative justice.
  • Holding schools accountable by disaggregating suspension and school climate data in school quality snapshots and institute school quality reports and quality reviews for Alternative Learning Centers.
  • Prioritizing additional training for evaluators and mentors to give specific feedback related to positive classroom culture-building and management techniques.
  • Creating a classroom management, school climate and de-escalation framework that is shared with teacher preparation programs.