Students, Council Stand Up in Support of Student Safety Act
/ Education Voice of the People
Did you know? Since 2006, suspensions in NYC public schools have increased by 40% from less than 52,000 to more than 72,000 because of an over-reliance on harsh, punitive tactics to respond to minor misbehavior. High school students at the Urban Youth Collaborative became concerned that a lack of transparency in their schools’ public safety system was allowing for excessive disciplinary action and disruption of learning. They helped create the Student Safety Act, which will create transparency in the DOE’s discipline policies, and the NYPD’s policing practices in NYC’s public school system by requiring the DOE and NYPD to report on arrests and suspensions, disaggregated by race, age, gender, and ELL and Special Education status—data previously unavailable to the public. Now, after three years of organizing, the New York City Council is expected to pass the Student Safety Act on Monday, December 20th. Students from the Urban Youth Collaborative, a youth-led coalition of community groups organizing high school students of color in the city’s low-income neighborhoods, held a press conference as part of the Student Safety Coalition on December 16th with City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Council Members Jackson, Vallone, and Mark-Viverito, and testified at the hearing. Here’s what they had to say:
Robert Moore, 17, Make the Road New York:
Last June, I graduated from high school. I now attend the Borough of Manhattan Community College. Since I was a tenth grader in public high school, I have worked with other students at Make the Road New York and the Urban Youth Collaborative to pass the Student Safety Act.
I think everyone in our city would agree that we want our schools to be safe, nurturing and respectful places for all students. Having information on who gets disciplined, for what reasons, and how they get disciplined, will only help us move further in that direction. No student should risk suspension for minor things like carrying a cell phone or being late to class. No student should be put in handcuffs because they are having a bad day and talked back to a teacher. I and many of my classmates have seen things like this happen. I agree that schools need rules to keep students safe. They also need to have appropriate and supportive responses for issues that come up with students every day. Many black and brown youth from low-income communities have plenty of challenges already. We shouldn’t be criminalized for behavior that other students get comforted or counseled for.
There are very good reasons that all of us have worked so hard to get the Student Safety Act passed. This Act is our first stepping stone in creating school safety policies that treat youth with the respect that we deserve. The act will require regular reporting of data on school discipline and police activity in schools. When we have this data, it will open the door to real discussions about whether students in our city, especially students in low-income communities of color, are being kept safe by current policies or being unfairly targeted by them.
Since the November NYC elections, MRNY members have been hard at work setting the agenda for our next mayor, City Council and citywide elected officials.
We kicked off "Talking Transition" with a low-wage worker forum and our attorneys have been staffing a Single Stop clinic around the clock at the Transition tent.
Recently, our youth joined the Transitions conversation to bring education and police reform issues into the spotlight for the new elected officials. 17-year-old youth leader Cheyanne Smith was also profiled in the New York Times for her leadership to make NYC schools more respectful, safe, and dignified places for learning.