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De Blasio Administration Announces New School Climate Initiatives to Make NYC Schools Safer, Fairer and More Transparent

July 21, 2016

Proposed updates to the discipline code include an end to suspensions for students in grades K-2

For the first time, NYPD releases expanded school safety data on school-based arrests, summonses and handcuffing

New scanning policy establishes official process based on data with NYPD oversight for the removal or addition of scanners in schools

NEW YORK—The de Blasio Administration today announced the second phase of its roadmap to promote safe schools and end overly punitive school discipline policies. The changes announced today end suspensions for students in kindergarten through second grade, replacing suspensions with more age-appropriate discipline techniques. The reforms add more than $47 million annually to support school climate initiatives and mental health services – conducted in partnership with ThriveNYC – and set clear protocols for the removal or addition of scanners in schools while also expanding NYPD school-based data that is reported publicly.

“Students feel safest when lines of responsibility and rules are crystal clear. Today’s reforms ensure that school environments are safe and structured. The reforms also empower educators and families with more data and greater clarity on school safety policies,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “In partnership with the NYPD, my administration will continue to monitor school safety data to ensure enduring reductions in disciplinary disparities while improving school safety citywide.”

Announced in partnership with Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton and the City Council, the reforms advance the Administration’s commitment to providing a safe and supportive learning environment and addresses the disparities in school discipline that disproportionately affect students of color and students with disabilities. The Administration’s roadmap is based on recommendations developed by the Mayor’s Leadership Team on School Climate and Discipline – a task force launched in 2015 and co-chaired by the Department of Education (DOE) and the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice (MOCJ).

To date, the de Blasio Administration school climate reforms have improved safety in schools while using school discipline methods that are fairer and more effective:

  • Declines in both school-based crime and suspensions. Suspensions dropped 32 percent in the first half of the 2015-2016 school year compared to the same time period in the 2014-2015 school year. Simultaneously, crime in schools also dropped, showing that it is it possible to have more safety and less punitive discipline.
  • Improved fairness in suspension process. The decline in overall suspensions has been driven in large part by a decline in suspensions for insubordination, historically a major factor in racial disparities in suspensions. Insubordination suspensions fell 81 percent during the first half of the 2015-2016 school year compared to the same time period last year.

“Schools are safe havens for communities, and these school climate reforms are steps forward in our commitment to ensuring all students are provided with a learning environment that is safe, supportive, inclusive and equitable,” said Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña. “We are encouraged by the decrease in the total number of school-related summonses and arrests, and in partnership with the NYPD, our new scanning policy will put clear protocols in place for schools requesting to change their scanning protocols. As a lifelong educator, parent and grandmother, these are common sense solutions to support safe learning environments both inside and outside the classroom.”

“New York City schools are earning excellent marks when it comes to safety,” said NYPD Commissioner William J. Bratton. “They are some of the safest places in the City. Total index crime in schools is down 35 percent over the last five years and, accordingly, so are arrests, suspensions and summonses. Phase two of the Mayor’s plan will bring the implementation of a clear protocol with regard to school scanners that will help the NYPD and the DOE to better assess how and where this equipment can be used to further enhance school safety. It will also make public – for the first time – data on handcuffing, which will show that these restraining devices are largely used when arrests are made.” 

In conjunction with the roadmap, the NYPD is expanding its data reporting on school-based arrests, summonses and handcuffing. This data aggregates information from both officers and school safety agents on school campuses for the first time, presenting a more comprehensive picture of public safety that shows:

  • More than a 50 percent reduction in school-related arrests by the School Safety Division and patrol officers, from the 2010-2011 to the 2014-2015 school year.
  • Nearly 80 percent fewer summonses issued by the School Safety Division in the 2014-2015 school year than in the 2010-2011 school year, and expanded reporting beginning in 2016 that includes school-based summonses issued by patrol officers.
  • The first-ever data set on handcuffing, which shows the majority of restraint use in the first quarter of 2016 on school campuses was the result of an arrest.

As part of the school safety roadmap, over the next year the City will: 

Update the Discipline Code to reduce use of suspensions:

  • End suspensions in kindergarten through second grade, replacing them with appropriate positive disciplinary interventions.
  • Minimize the carry-over of suspensions between school years and systematize the early reinstatement process.
  • Require documentation of positive supports and interventions provided by the school prior to a principal’s suspension, and ensure that additional mitigating factors are considered in the determination of disciplinary action.
  • This process includes opportunity for public comment before the new code is officially adopted. 

Expand resources for high-need schools and at-risk students

  • Increase mental health support services for high-need schools, allocating more than $15 million annually from the Thrive NYC initiative to provide at least 50 more schools with mental health services over the next three years.
  • Pilot mandatory reengagement restorative circles for students returning from superintendent suspensions within the 20 schools receiving Safe and Supportive Opportunity Expanded (SSOPE) resources.
  • Pilot a program, overseen by MOCJ, that will provide educational and legal resources for students to clear summonses and reduce the number of students who are subject to arrests for certain low-level offenses.

Clarify safety policies and procedures for safety agents and school staff

  • Implement a scanning policy that outlines a clear protocol for the removal or addition of scanning equipment in schools. Using school-level safety data, the NYPD and the DOE will work with school administrators to review requests and determine whether or not scanners should be removed, added or made part-time at a school.
  • NYPD, DOE, MOCJ and Law Department are working to update the Memorandum of Understanding governing police involvement in schools to clarify roles of police and school staff.

Increase data reporting and transparency

  • Expand NYPD reporting on school-based arrests, summonses and handcuffing, which includes patrol-based data and School Safety Division data.
  • Analyze data on existing programs – warning cards and restorative practices in particular – to determine any necessary changes and how to appropriately expand to other schools.

Click here for a full report on the second round of recommendations made by the Mayor’s Leadership Team on School Climate and Discipline, which is comprised of City leaders, City Council leaders, educators and community stakeholders.

“In the last few years in New York City, we have reached record lows in crime and incarceration, demonstrating that it is possible to have more safety and a lighter criminal justice touch,” said Elizabeth Glazer, Director of the Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice. “The same holds true in our schools. As we have re-worked disciplinary policies to reduce disparities and avoid unnecessary arrests and suspensions, we have also seen school-based index crime fall an impressive 35 percent over last five years. The changes announced today are an important next step in this work.”

“A ban on K-2 suspensions is a giant step forward for our public schools,” said Council Member Daniel Dromm, Chair of the Committee on Education. “These recommendations rightly embrace a restorative justice approach to discipline and will vastly improve school learning environments across the city. I am pleased to work alongside the Department of Education and the NYPD in supporting this important effort.”

Council Member Vanessa Gibson, Chair of the Committee on Public Safety, said, “Though well-intentioned, zero-tolerance policies adversely effected a young person's academic trajectory and, as illuminated by data collected by the amended Student Safety Act, were disproportionately used in incidents involving students of color and students with disabilities. Today we are giving all of our young people the chance to learn and grow from their mistakes. In particular, I am pleased that our youngest students will no longer be subjected to suspensions and that students who are suspended will have individualized plans to help them keep up with their grade level upon reintegration. I am also thankful to the administration for outlining a transparent procedure for the placement or removal of metal detectors, a reform my colleagues and I have been looking forward to for many months. I applaud Mayor de Blasio, the School Climate Leadership Team, the NYPD, the Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice, and the Department of Education for their strong partnership and their dedication to the safety and success of all of our students.

“I am gratified that the DOE is taking this critical step in recognizing that young children's challenging behaviors are indicators that they need support,” said Julia Zuckerman, Principal of Castle Bridge School in Manhattan. “Suspensions further marginalize and punish children who need to learn how to be included. This shift will encourage principals and teachers to focus on creating the kinds of meaningful social emotional programs that will in turn promote stronger learning communities for a wider range of children.”

“CDF-NY supports transforming our schools into places of dignity and success for all students. Depriving young students of their learning environment, through suspensions, removes their opportunity to develop essential skills and leads to negative outcomes at the individual, family, community and city level. We applaud the final recommendations of the Mayor's Leadership Team to eliminate suspensions for kindergarten through second grade students and replace that practice with positive alternatives to exclusion. This recommendation sets a strong starting point in our work to ensure all schools provide opportunities for mutual respect and meaningful learning,” said Naomi Post, Executive Director of the Children’s Defense Fund–New York.

“There is no reason why any young child in kindergarten through second grade should be suspended – these are children ages five to seven! We are so pleased that the administration is prohibiting suspensions for these children and we look forward to seeing more age-appropriate, trauma-informed, positive interventions being used instead,” said Jennifer March, Executive Director of the Citizens' Committee for Children.

"The Center for Children's Initiatives commends the City for taking action to assure that every effort is made to keep young children in school and offer them the support they need to thrive. We know that children do not learn or benefit from being suspended or expelled from school. We believe it is important to offer children the social and emotional support they need to participate fully in learning. With this support, they are more likely to learn the social skills to navigate difficult feelings and be more successful in school and life. We are pleased that New York City already has such policies in place for publicly-funded early learning programs and pre-K. We are pleased to see such policies put into effect in the early elementary grades, when children are still honing their skills. We are also pleased to see an initial investment in resources to support professional development, mental health and other support that arm teachers with the tools they need to support children's healthy development and learning. We hope to see further investment in such resources in the near future, to be sure all of New York's children thrive now and in the future,” said Betty Holcomb, Policy Director for the Center for Children’s Initiatives.

Kim Sweet, Executive Director of Advocates for Children, said, “The report from the Mayor’s Leadership Team on School Climate and Discipline includes a number of recommendations that would help keep kids in school without compromising safety. The elimination of suspensions for our youngest students, in grades K through 2, is particularly important. Suspending a young child from school does nothing to teach social-emotional skills or change the child’s behavior when the child returns, and removing children from the classroom causes them to fall behind in key academic skills, such as learning to read. The City should act quickly to implement the changes recommended.”

E4E-New York Executive Director Maryanne Kiley said, "Every child in New York deserves to learn in a school culture grounded in trust and empathy. Our City leaders’ proposed actions to eliminate suspensions for K-2 children and create a process for schools and communities to remove security scanners mark a step forward for making NYC schools welcoming spaces for every student. It is time for us, as a city, to have an honest conversation about the impact of punitive school discipline, and we applaud our leaders for committing to tracking and releasing comprehensive data about school climate. This proposal aligns well with recommendations classroom teachers developed to raise the standard for school culture across our city. These policies must be paired with the resources to support them: counselors, social and emotional learning programs, and even guidance for welcoming suspended students back into the school community as quickly as possible. These system-wide structures are critical, or else these potentially historic advancements in school climate will fail to take full effect."

Dr. Nancy Camacho, a Librarian at P.S. 396 in the Bronx and Member of E4E-New York said, “Suspensions do not help students develop ways to work through their problems and be productive in our classrooms, alongside other students. Disciplining behavior problems, and not the student, empowers children to be responsible for their actions. Ending suspensions in Kindergarten through second grade is a victory, but teachers will then need the training and tools to find alternative ways to manage bad behavior. We must have the same resourceful structure for teaching how to be kind and calm as we do for learning the ABCs and 1-2-3s. No matter the students or grade level, understanding the problems a student may encounter is half the battle. My school made the effort to collect and review our data this past year, and we used that information to decide where extra attention was needed. It was tremendously resourceful. I applaud the district for making similar efforts and want to see their work extend to school-by–school reporting so that every school across the city makes it their business to reflect on student behavior and seek out the resources our children need to be healthy and happy in our classrooms.”

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