NYCLU: NYC Report a Monumental Step toward Safe, Nurturing Schools

Affiliate: ACLU of New York
July 23, 2015 11:30 am

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July 23, 2015 — The de Blasio administration today released a report outlining ways to improve the climate in New York City public schools while minimizing the use of suspensions, arrests, summonses and other excessively harsh discipline practices that push students out of school, increase drop-out rates and unfairly impact students of color and those with special needs. The report, Safety with Dignity, details policy recommendations made by the Mayor’s Leadership Team on School Climate and Discipline, a team which included New York Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Donna Lieberman.

“Change starts at the top and by convening this task force and releasing these recommendations, the mayor has embraced the role of agent of change – he has publicly recognized that school safety and discipline policies of the past that relied on suspensions, arrests and summonses have a devastating impact on New York City’s most vulnerable children. And he has prioritized fixing the problem,” Lieberman said. “This is a monumental step, but much remains to be done. The task force brought together stakeholders as disparate as the NYPD to the NYCLU around the shared goal of making our schools a safe place where all children can learn and be nurtured. We look forward to working with the city and all of our colleagues in this effort to now make our vision a reality.”

The de Blasio administration inherited a school system that oversaw unprecedented increases in suspensions, arrests and summonses, and put more police personnel in public schools than there are on the streets of almost every major city in the United States.

The Leadership Team has been meeting since February and, in its report, has articulated a roadmap the city can follow to end its abuse of exclusionary discipline and create schools that nurture and support all of New York City’s children. Among the Leadership Team’s recommendations to the city are:

· Articulate a clear mission statement on student discipline that embraces positive supports and presents a strategy for realizing this mission.

· Provide support, including staff and training, for schools with the highest numbers of suspensions, arrests and/or summonses, and increase school climate support system-wide.

· Improve citywide and school-level data collection and use.

· Create rules and conduct trainings to improve the metal detector scanning process and remove metal detectors where appropriate.

· Memorialize in writing policies and protocols within the NYPD and Department of Education that promote de-escalation and integration between educators and school safety officers.

· Reduce disparities in discipline and school-based arrests/summonses.

· Improve training of staff in high-priority schools about how to identify and meet the needs of students with special needs.

· Promote transparency, consistency and information sharing.

“For more than a decade, New York City has pushed far too many youth of color into the School to Prison Pipeline. Safety with Dignity outlines a path for New York City to be a national leader in shutting down the pipeline by ensuring that all youth find schools that support them,” said NYCLU Advocacy Director Johanna Miller, a member of the School Safety Working Group. “This is a call to action to the NYPD and the Department of Education. While today is a great day, making this vision a reality will take leadership, creativity and courage from our city.”

The NYCLU has for years been leading the effort to reform New York City’s school safety policies, publishing four reports on the issue since 2007 and filing a class action lawsuit in 2010 challenging illegal arrests and excessive force in the schools.

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