Hallway Patrol

After two years, Council moves to change school safety reports

More than two years after the legislation was originally introduced, City Council members today unanimously passed a bill that will change the way the city reports safety incidents in schools.

The Student Safety Act requires the Department of Education and New York City Police Department to report arrests, suspensions, and expulsion data four times a year and mandates that the city include a breakdown of students’ race, gender, age and status as special education students or English language learners.

Advocates including the New York Civil Liberties Union have long complained that the city’s school safety officers are too aggressive and too often intervene in disciplinary actions best left to administrators. The advocates argue that the legislation will allow parents to better understand how often school safety officers are involved in incidents and with which students.

The bill was originally introduced in 2008 by Council Education Committee Chair Robert Jackson, but got lost amid the debate over extending term limits and has laid mostly dormant since then.

One provision in the bill’s original language that was not included in the final version passed today involves beefing up the role of the the Civilian Complaint Review Board, which investigates complaints against New York City police officers. The board does not currently review incidents in schools, though NYCLU advocates said they will continue to push for the city to widen the Board’s jurisdiction.

NYCLU Applauds City Council’s Unanimous Passage of Student Safety Act


December 20, 2010 – The New York Civil Liberties Union today applauded the City Council for unanimously passing the Student Safety Act, legislation that will bring much-needed transparency to NYPD activity and Department of Education suspension practices in the city’s schools.

“This is a victory for all of New York City’s schoolchildren and the core democratic principle of open government,” NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said. “The Student Safety Act is one of the most comprehensive school safety reporting laws in the nation. It is an important step toward establishing safety and discipline policies that treat all children fairly, with respect and dignity, and toward the day when we provide a safe and supportive learning environment for all students.”

The City Council passed the legislation today in a 47-0 vote. It was supported by Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Education Committee Chair Robert Jackson, Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito and Public Safety Committee Chair Peter Vallone, Jr.

The Student Safety Act provides a detailed framework for the reporting of discipline and police practices in schools on a routine basis. It will require the Department of Education (DOE) to submit an annual report on student discipline that shows the number of students subjected to a superintendent’s suspension (six days to one year) or a principal’s suspension (five days of less) during the school year. It also must include the number of suspension-related school transfers.

In addition to this annual report, the act will require bi-annual reports on the number of suspensions citywide for each month.  This will allow educators, policymakers and parents to determine whether suspensions increase during certain periods – such as high stakes testing time – of the school year

The bill also will require the NYPD to provide the council a quarterly report detailing the activity of its personnel in city schools. The quarterly report will show the number of students arrested and issued summonses broken down by patrol borough, and it will detail non-criminal incidents involving NYPD personnel.

Information in the annual discipline report and the NYPD’s quarterly reports will be broken down by students’ race, gender, age, grade level, special education status and whether they are English language learners.

The NYCLU and other advocates will be analyzing this data regularly to determine the impact of school safety policies on education.

“We commend the City Council for passing this important legislation, and look forward to continuing to work with lawmakers to create smart and effective school discipline and safety policies in New York City,” said NYCLU Advocacy Director Udi Ofer. “We’ll continue to work with policymakers to revamp school discipline and safety policies to ensure that all children are provided with equal educational opportunities. We will work for even greater accountability and transparency regarding NYPD and DOE practices in the schools. We have no doubt that smart discipline policies will increase New York City’s graduation rate and help close the achievement gap.”

The NYCLU will continue to call on the City Council to strengthen the Civilian Complaint Review Board and to broaden its jurisdiction to cover misconduct complaints against school safety officers. To provide additional transparency, the NYCLU recommends expanding the Student Safety Act’s reporting requirements to include student arrest data broken down by school and information on students who are “discharged” from school. A “discharge” is someone who leaves the school system without being counted as a dropout or a graduate, thus inflating the graduation rate.

With more than 5,200 uniformed officers, the NYPD’s School Safety Division is the nation’s fifth-largest police force – larger than the police forces in Washington D.C., Detroit, Boston, Baltimore, Dallas or Las Vegas. There are far more police personnel in our schools than there are guidance counselors or social workers.

NYPD school safety officers have the authority to detain, search and arrest children, yet they receive only 14 weeks of training – compared to six months for police officers – and are not adequately trained to operate in the special environment of the schools. All too often, police personnel intervene in disciplinary matters best handled by educators.

Police activities and DOE zero tolerance practices have a disproportionate impact on schools serving the city’s black and Latino children from low income families. In these schools, which often have permanent metal detectors, students are suspended and even arrested for minor disciplinary infractions, such as talking back, horseplay, writing on a desk, or bringing a cell phone to school.

Though few students, parents and educators know how to file a misconduct complaint against School Safety Officers, the NYPD reports that it receives approximately 1,200 complaints a year about police misconduct in schools.

The NYCLU has been working for three years along with the Student Safety Coalition for passage of the Student Safety Act.  The coalition is composed of the following organizations:

  • Advocates for Children of New York
  • Association of Legal Aid Attorneys, UAW 2325
  • Bronx Defenders
  • Children’s Defense Fund – New York
  • Class Size Matters
  • Correctional Association of New York
  • CUNY Graduate Center Participatory Action Research Collective
  • DRUM – Desis Rising Up and Moving
  • Make the Road New York
  • NAACP-Legal Defense and Educational Fund
  • NAACP New York State Conference
  • National Economic and Social Rights Initiative
  • National Lawyers Guild – New York City Chapter
  • New York Civil Liberties Union
  • New York Lawyers for the Public Interest
  • Suspension Representation Project
  • Teachers Unite
  • Urban Youth Collaborative
  • Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice

that was weird

The D.C. school system had a pitch-perfect response after John Oliver made #DCPublicSchools trend on Twitter

Public education got some unexpected attention Sunday night when John Oliver asked viewers watching the Emmys to make #DCPublicSchools trend on Twitter.

Oliver had been inspired by comedian Dave Chappelle, who shouted out the school system he attended before he announced an award winner. Within a minute of Oliver’s request, the hashtag was officially trending.

Most of the tweets had nothing to do with schools in Washington, D.C.

Here are a few that did, starting with this pitch-perfect one from the official D.C. Public Schools account:

Oliver’s surreal challenge was far from the first time that the late-show host has made education a centerpiece of his comedy — over time, he has pilloried standardized testing, school segregation, and charter schools.

Nor was it the first education hashtag to take center stage at an awards show: #PublicSchoolProud, which emerged as a response to new U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, got a shoutout during the Oscars in February.

And it also is not the first time this year that D.C. schools have gotten a surprise burst of attention. The Oscars were just a week after DeVos drew fire for criticizing the teachers she met during her first school visit as secretary — to a D.C. public school.

Startup Support

Diverse charter schools in New York City to get boost from Walton money

PHOTO: John Bartelstone
Students at Brooklyn Prospect Charter School in 2012. The school is one of several New York City charters that aim to enroll diverse student bodies.

The Walton Family Foundation, the philanthropy governed by the family behind Walmart, pledged Tuesday to invest $2.2 million over the next two years in new charter schools in New York City that aim to be socioeconomically diverse.

Officials from the foundation expect the initiative to support the start of about seven mixed-income charter schools, which will be able to use the money to pay for anything from building space to teachers to technology.

The effort reflects a growing interest in New York and beyond in establishing charter schools that enroll students from a mix of backgrounds, which research suggests can benefit students and is considered one remedy to school segregation.

“We are excited to help educators and leaders on the front lines of solving one of today’s most pressing education challenges,” Marc Sternberg, the foundation’s K-12 education director and a former New York City education department official, said in a statement.

Walton has been a major charter school backer, pouring more than $407 million into hundreds of those schools over the past two decades. In New York, the foundation has helped fund more than 100 new charter schools. (Walton also supports Chalkbeat; read about our funding here.)

Some studies have found that black and Hispanic students in charter schools are more likely to attend predominantly nonwhite schools than their peers in traditional schools, partly because charter schools tend to be located in urban areas and are often established specifically to serve low-income students of color. In New York City, one report found that 90 percent of charter schools in 2010 were “intensely segregated,” meaning fewer than 10 percent of their students were white.

However, more recently, a small but rising number of charter schools has started to take steps to recruit and enroll a more diverse student body. Often, they do this by drawing in applicants from larger geographic areas than traditional schools can and by adjusting their admissions lotteries to reserve seats for particular groups, such as low-income students or residents of nearby housing projects.

Founded in 2014, the national Diverse Charter Schools Coalition now includes more than 100 schools in more than a dozen states. Nine New York City charter groups are part of the coalition, ranging from individual schools like Community Roots Charter School in Brooklyn to larger networks, including six Success Academy schools.

“There’s been a real shift in the charter school movement to think about how they address the issue of segregation,” said Halley Potter, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, a think tank that promotes socioeconomic diversity.

The Century Foundation and researchers at Teachers College at Columbia University and Temple University will receive additional funding from Walton to study diverse charter schools, with the universities’ researchers conducting what Walton says is the first peer-reviewed study of those schools’ impact on student learning.