The Student Safety Coalition works to end the New York City school-to-prison pipeline and its disproportionate impact on youth of color and youth with special needs. Made up of New York City advocacy, academic and community-based organizations, the coalition uses a coordinated set of legislative, public education and organizing strategies to achieve its goals.
New York City’s School-To-Prison Pipeline
Excessively harsh school discipline practices push students out of school, increase drop out and unfairly affect students of color and those with special needs. A single suspension in high school lowers the odds a student will graduate in four years by 46%. Young people who don’t finish high school are eight times more likely to go to prison than students who graduate.
National research finds black students receive harsher punishments than their white peers for the same offense. In New York City today, black students make up 27% of total enrollment but represent 53% of all suspensions; special education students make up 12% of total enrollment but represent 34% of suspensions.
Suspending students has become the reflexive response to even minor misbehavior. Of 53,000 out-of-school-suspensions in 2012-13 in New York City, 78% were for infractions such as defying authority or talking back. Of the 1,367 students who were arrested or received a summons in 2012-13, 59% were for “disorderly conduct” such as dress code violations.
A growing police presence in schools has accompanied the increase in suspensions and expulsions. There are currently more than five police officers in NYC schools for every three counselors. Research shows that when police intervene in minor discipline matters, more children enter the criminal justice system and schools are not significantly safer.
Emergency services also are too often used to manage disciplinary problems. During the 2011-2012 school year, New York City public schools called EMS 3,676 times to remove disruptive students, a 10% increase from 2009-2010.
Reforming school discipline practices will help children stay in school, succeed in higher education and beyond and benefit the city as a whole. School environments will be safe, healthy and focused on learning. Student misbehavior will be addressed in developmentally appropriate ways that keep kids in school and teach them how to effectively deal with conflict. And New York City will become a national model for progressive school discipline reform, showing by example that reducing suspensions as well as police and EMS intervention improves student success.
Advocates for Children of New York
Association of Legal Aid Attorneys
Brooklyn Defender Services
DRUM – Desis Rising Up and Moving
Dignity in Schools Campaign (DSC-NY)
Center for Community Alternatives
Children’s Defense Fund – New York
Legal Aid Society
Make the Road New York
NAACP Legal and Educational Defense Fund
National Economic and Social Rights Initiative
New York Civil Liberties Union
NYS Permanent Judicial Commission on Justice for Children
Urban Youth Collaborative