New York City Makes Progress in School Discipline Reform

In a recent op-ed, Kavitha Mediratta, lauds the progress made by New York City schools in challenging the school the prison pipeline through their efforts in school discipline reform. Although much, of course, remains to be done, she argues that recent moves by NYC Mayer, Bill de Blasio, herald a step in the right direction. 

The school to prison pipeline has been getting a lot of attention lately all over—Mediratta mentions a recent national summit on the issue, led by the White House. In New York, various grassroots and civil rights groups have been joining forces to push for school discipline reform. In her op-ed, Mediratta details the progress of these long-term efforts:Kavitha Mediratta

For example, students in the Urban Youth Collaborative and Dignity in Schools Campaign organized alongside the New York Civil Liberties Union, Advocates for Children, Teachers Unite, Children’s Defense Fund, the Legal Aid Society and the Morningside Center to raise awareness of the harm caused by out-of-school suspension, arrests, summonses and handcuffing. In the Bronx, parents in the New Settlement Apartments Parent Action Committee worked closely with New York Police Department’s School Safety Division to improve training of officers. The Department of Education also began meeting regularly with students, parents and advocates to expand the use of conflict resolution and community-building programs. 

In 2009, retired New York State Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye convened a multi-stakeholder task force that provided a blueprint for the mayor’s Leadership Team. One year later, the City Council passed the Student Safety Act, requiring quarterly reporting of school safety data, including incidents involving arrest and suspension. 

As a result of these efforts and others, scores of schools today are implementing innovative approaches to improving the climate for learning. Schools themselves are now making the case that there is a different, better approach to discipline and safety. Most importantly, they are demonstrating that positive discipline goes hand-in-hand with effective teaching and learning in schools. 

Although more improvement is still nessecary if we want to provide every child with an opportunity to learn, New York's progress towards that goal should be marked by other states facing the same issues, and potentially replicated if helpful. Mediratta also speaks to how philanthropy can help end the school to prison pipeline and keep students in school.  She argues that by not only providing funds, but also by networking and communicating, philanthropic organizations can make a considerable difference.

You can find her entire op-ed here.

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