Parents, Students & Advocates Demand Positive School Climate & Updates to Codes of Conduct

New York State Leaders Need to Step Up, in Wake of Trump Proposed Rollbacks

ALBANY, N.Y. (June 5, 2018) — Today, members of the New York Safe and Supportive SchoolsCoalition held a press conference at the Million Dollar Staircase at the State Capitol in Albany. Representatives of the coalition spoke to the importance of New York State legislature passing the Judge Judith S. Kaye Safe and Supportive Schools Act (A.3873a) to ensure protections for New York’s students at the state level, as the U.S. Department of Education rolls back civil rights protections for students at the federal level.

The Safe and Supportive Schools Act aims to create a safe, positive, inclusive, civil and respectful school climate. Among its provisions, it would end suspensions for students in K- 3rd grade; cap long term suspensions at 20 days instead of 180 days; and promote the importance of positive interventions like restorative justice.

Parents traveled to Albany for the press conference from as far away as Rochester and New York City, to stand with members of the Safe and Supportive Schools Coalition, including the Alliance for Quality Education, Urban Youth Collaborative, Advancement Project, YWCA Brooklyn, New York Civil Liberties Union, Hispanic Federation, Legal Aid of NY, Children’s Defense Fund, Citizen Action of New York, Advocates for Children, and Make the Road NY.

“National, state and local data all show an alarming trend, that students with disabilities and students of color are disproportionately impacted by school discipline practices. It is time for our state to move away from discriminatory discipline practices and instead utilize fair, age-appropriate discipline practices that ensure a safe, inclusive school climate. Practices such as peer mediation create a positive school climate for everyone,” said Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan, chair, Assembly Education Committee.

“For far too long New York State has failed to address the inequity in student discipline,” said Jasmine Gripper, legislative director, Alliance for Quality Education. “We have children in kindergarten and 1st grade that are being suspended from school at alarming rates. We know punitive measures keep students out of the classroom, prevent them from learning and don’t address misbehavior. This is why New York’s leaders need to pass the A.3873a, the Safe and Supportive Schools Act. This bill promotes restorative justice approaches to student discipline that attempt to build a school climate that is based on cooperation, mutual understanding, acceptance of responsibility, trust and respect. We applaud the Assembly for their leadership for taking up this issue.”

“YWCA Brooklyn, led by the voices of young women in our programs, advocates for the reforms included in the Safe and Supportive Schools Bill because young women of color are disproportionately targeted, disciplined, suspended, expelled and experience the school to prison pipeline phenomenon in a way that still remains under the radar,” said Martha Kamber, CEO & President, YWCA Brooklyn.

“We are advocating for the Safe and Supportive Schools bill because policing students in public schools, and unfair disciplinary practices that targets students of color, have emptied our classrooms and filled the jails,” said Breanna Toney, YW LEADer from YWCA Brooklyn.

“As the parent of a first-grader, it is unacceptable that children as young as my daughter and her classmates are still being punished by being pushed out of school,” said Jamaica Miles, Schenectady parent and organizer for Citizen Action of New York. “Harsh disciplinary practices like suspensions disproportionately impact students of color and contribute to the school-to-prison pipeline, and only make schools less safe places to teach and learn. New York needs to pass the Safe and Supportive Schools Act, so we can keep kids in school where they can learn, instead of disrupting their education by pushing them out.”