School suspensions and removals declined by almost 10 percent during the past academic year, according to Department of Education data released Nov. 1.
There were 45,216 suspensions and removals between July 2018 and June 2019, down from 49,293 during that same period a year earlier. Although the number of suspensions given out has decreased by 38.7 percent since the beginning of the de Blasio administration, the 2017-2018 school year saw a 4-percent increase. The jump was thanks to a 21-percent spike during the months that followed the fatal stabbing of 15-year-old Michael McCree at the since-closed Urban Assembly for Wildlife Conservation in the Bronx.
Bans Shorter, Too
The length of the average suspension also declined, down to 5.8 days from 7.5 last school year. This year, the DOE updated its discipline code to limit suspensions to a maximum of 20 days except in the most-serious cases. (About 6 percent of suspensions were 20 days or longer during the previous school year).
Major crimes committed in schools, including arson and robbery, declined by 4.7 percent over the past year and by 31.9 percent since 2014.
Mayor de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza have focused on shifting away from harsh punishments such as suspensions in favor of restorative-justice policies, which teach students how to resolve conflict and staff how to address students’ emotions.
“This is definitive new evidence that reducing suspension, getting rid of the overuse of suspension, actually correlates to a better school environment [and a] reduction in crime,” the Mayor told Errol Louis on “Inside City Hall.” “Suspension was being vastly overused and it was being used in a fashion that we have to say was discriminatory. Even if that wasn’t the intention, that’s what happened.”
Black Students Top List
But certain groups of students continue to disproportionately face punishment. Although about a quarter of public-school students were black, they made up about 45 percent of the students who were suspended during the most-recent school year. That figure has declined by about 8 percent since 2014. And 40 percent of suspensions were given to students with disabilities, who make up about 20 percent of the overall student body.
Mr. Carranza said that the DOE would “continue to dive deeper into this work to address disparities that persist nationally, and in New York City.” The agency spent $23 million on implicit bias and culturally-responsive education training over the past school year, and has expanded restorative practice training to school districts spanning Bedford-Stuyvesant, Harlem and the Bronx. The city has also committed to hiring 85 social workers.
But there are some opposed to the DOE’s push away from suspensions, including Teamsters Local 237, which represents School Safety Agents. The union’s president, Gregory Floyd, believed that staff had no suitable alternative methods to deal with problematic students. He has also questioned the notion that crime was down in schools, saying that numbers fell because the agents instead began issuing warning cards to students 16 years old and up for misbehavior that would have previously resulted in a summons, such as possession of marijuana on school grounds.
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