Coalition pushes for disciplinary code reform in city schools
Craig D. Frazier | 9/11/2014, 4:26 p.m.
Special to the AmNews
The Dignity in Schools Campaign-New York, with the support of 16 City Council members and two state Assembly members, called on the Department of Education and the de Blasio administration to limit punitive discipline practices and promote positive school climates.
“Dignity in Schools Campaign-New York feels it is time for us to meet with the mayor and push for much needed changes in school discipline. It has been more than a year since Mayor [Bill] de Blasio’s public call for an end to New York City’s reliance on harsh and exclusionary disciplinary practices,” Dignity in Schools representative Shoshi Chowdhury told the AmNews. “New York City needs to be a leader in creating systemic changes that lead to ending the school-to-prison pipeline. We hope to meet with the mayor and are calling on the administration to convene a mayoral leadership task force with a strong mandate: to maintain school safety while reducing suspensions, referrals to EMS, summonses and arrests in schools.”
The Dignity in Schools Campaign-New York is a citywide coalition of students, parents, advocates, educators and lawyers calling for positive, school-wide approaches to discipline that will improve the school environment, reduce conflict and increase learning.
“We want the DOE to change the discipline code and require all schools to use guidance interventions, such as counseling, mediation or community circles, before any student can be suspended, to eliminate the ability of schools to suspend students for minor misbehavior under the category of ‘defying or disobeying authority’ (Infraction B21) and to provide funding and training for school staff to implement positive discipline approaches, such as conflict resolution, peer mediation and restorative practices,” added Crowdhury.
The coalition met monthly with the Office of Safety and Youth Development, calling for changes to the discipline code and broader implementation of restorative approaches to discipline.
Each year, the DOE suspends thousands of students for minor misbehavior, including insubordination and talking back—infractions that fall under Infraction Code B21 of the DOE’s discipline code.
According to Dignity in Schools, large school districts such as Los Angeles, Denver and San Francisco have identified more effective strategies to keep students in school and improve school discipline.
Dignity in Schools and Council members, including the chair of the Education Committee, Daniel Dromm, are calling on the mayor and the DOE to make long overdue changes to the discipline code that would establish New York City as a progressive educational leader and implement better practices similar to those adopted in other cities.
A spokesperson for the DOE told the AmNews, “DOE did make revisions to the school disciplinary code. Now principals cannot suspend first-offending students who are deemed to have been ‘disorderly’ rather than ‘disruptive.’ In addition, old-fashion punishment has been replaced by ‘progressive discipline,’ ‘collaborative negotiation,’ ‘restorative approaches’ and ‘circle processes,’ rather than detention, no questions asked.”