Urgent Need for Senator Montgomery’s Solutions Not Suspensions Bill to Address Systemic Racism in School Discipline
ALBANY, N.Y. (June 17, 2019) — A new report finds that school disciplinary actions that disproportionately target Black and Latinx youth are feeding the school to prison pipeline. The report, published Monday by education advocacy organization the Alliance for Quality Education, underscores the urgent need for the State Legislature to pass the Judge Judith S. Kaye Solutions Not Suspensions Bill (S767A), which would make changes to school disciplinary policies statewide to end the targeting of Black and Latinx students. Read the full report here.
The report, titled Systemic Racism and New York State’s School to Prison Pipeline, reveals a pattern of suspensions, law enforcement referrals and youth incarceration exists across the state that is focused on Black and Latinx youth, and in particular on Black youth.
By analyzing data on school suspensions, referrals by schools to law enforcement, and youth detention in the criminal justice system in five cities across New York State (Albany, Buffalo, New York City, Rochester and Utica), the report shows that Black youth are by far the most likely to be targeted for suspensions, referrals to law enforcement and juvenile detention, in great disproportion to their representation in the youth population in their communities.
In the 2015-16 school year, the most recent data available:
- Buffalo: Erie County has the largest disparity between racial/ethnic groups detained in juvenile detention centers; 18% of Erie County youth are Black, but 72% of the youth detained are Black.
- Rochester: Rochester is the only district that rarely utilized referral to law enforcement as a form of discipline. But more than half of the juveniles incarcerated in Monroe County are Black, while they only make up about 21% of the county’s population.
- Utica: There are 9,797 students enrolled in the Utica City School District and there were 143 expulsions within the district. While Black students only make up 25% of the district, they account for a majority of the out of school suspensions, in school suspensions, referrals to law enforcement, and expulsions.
- Albany: Latinx students were overrepresented when looking at out of school suspensions and referrals to law enforcement; Latinx students are 16% of the district population but account for 18% of referrals to law enforcement. Latinx students are also overrepresented in the Albany County juvenile justice system relative to the amount of Latinx youth in the county as a whole.
- New York City: In New York City public schools, Black students were the overwhelming majority of students given out of school suspension despite comprising less than 25% of district enrollment population. Regarding expulsions, of the 214 students who received them, over 60% of them were Black.
In the 2015-16 school year, New York State K-12th grade students lost 686,000 days of instruction to suspension, often for minor misbehavior. Students who miss 20 days or more in a single year have a dramatically reduced chance of graduation.
Being suspended just once in the ninth grade doubles the likelihood that students will dropout; people who dropout from high school are 47 times more likely to be incarcerated than their peers who get a college degree. The evidence is crystal clear that existing state and local policies regarding school discipline, suspensions and referrals to law enforcement create a school to prison pipeline that disproportionately targets Black and Latinx youth; these impacts are particularly alarming for Black youth.
The report is based on a new analysis completed by New York University’s Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools, using data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights and the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services. Data is from the 2015-16 school year, the most recent data available.
With the release of the report on Monday, State Legislators at the State Capitol in Albany called for immediate action at a press conference. Legislation in the New York State Senate, the Judge Judith S. Kaye Solutions Not Suspensions Bill (S767A), sponsored by Senator Velmanette Montgomery of Brooklyn, would end many of the zero-tolerance policies currently mandated by state law that underpin the school to prison pipeline, and would:
- Ban the use of suspensions for our youngest students in grades K – 3.
- Eliminate the use of suspensions for minor infractions such as being late to class, insubordination, and dress code violations.
- Limit the length of long-term suspensions from 180 days to 20 days and ensure students who are suspended receive their classwork.
- Encourage and support the use of restorative practices and positive alternatives to suspensions.
- Limit unnecessary interactions between students and law enforcement officers.
Since 2015 some of these districts have made substantial progress in addressing some of the issues of systemic racism in school discipline practices, most noticeably New York City and Rochester, and to a lesser degree Buffalo and Albany. However, the systemic racism in school discipline and school referrals to law enforcement and the school to prison pipeline that results, continue to be a major problem in all school districts across New York.
“Black youth are being pushed out of schools through the overuse of suspensions and are over represented in our states youth incarceration rates. Zero tolerance policies don’t work in the criminal justice system and they have no place in our schools. The racial disparities throughout the state are deeply alarming. New York State must take drastic action to reverse this trend immediately,” Jasmine Gripper, Alliance for Quality Education legislative director.
“As a parent, it is unbelievable to me that in New York State children as young as kindergarten are being punished with suspension from school. These kinds of harsh disciplinary practices disproportionately impact students of color, and only make schools less safe places to teach and learn. New York needs to pass the Solutions Not Suspensions Bill, so we can keep kids in school where they can learn, instead of disrupting their education by pushing them out,” said Lauren Manning, parent, Albany City School District.
“When we see Black and Brown children suspended at far higher percentages than their white peers, we know that systemic racism is at work, and it is our responsibility — and the responsibility of our elected leaders — to right that wrong. Harsh exclusionary punishments like suspensions are depriving Black and Brown children of instructional time and fueling the school to prison pipeline. I call on our Legislature to act now to end this injustice and pass the Solutions Not Suspensions Bill now,” said Sparkle Anthony, Citizen Action member and parent leader from Utica.
“This report, Systemic Racism and New York State’s School to Prison Pipeline, underscores yet again why we can’t wait any further for Education Justice. The urgency of this moment is reflective in the data,New York State cannot continue to ignore the school to prison pipeline.” said Jim Anderson, Buffalo community leader and Citizen Action board vice president.
“Every time I go to my daughter’s school I am reminded of the school to prison pipeline by the metal detectors and school cops that greet me. This atmosphere is very destructive to the mindset of black and brown children. Our children need supportive schools that help them overcome obstacles. Instead, Black and Brown children are trying to navigate through a racist and biased system looking to criminalize and push them out of school,” said Tanesha Grant, parent leader from the Bronx.
“Rochester has made real progress in recent years on dramatically reducing school suspensions, but many Black and Latinx youth continue to be pushed onto the school to prison pipeline. We need the state to act now to replace zero tolerance policies with positive and supportive solutions,” said Mercedes Phelan Rochester parent and Lead Organizer, Citizen Action.