About 21 percent of the city's middle- and high-schoolers attend schools in the Bronx. But 48 percent of the summonses that police handed out in schools last year went to Bronx students.
That is one statistic about policing in city schools that the New York Civil Liberties Union is highlighting now that it has a full year of school policing data in hand. Since last year, the New York Police Department has been required to publish information every three months about arrests it has made and summonses it has issued in schools, where it has more than 5,000 officers assigned.
Between July 1, 2011, and June 30, 2012, police officers made 882 arrests in city schools and issued 1,666 summonses for behavior, according to the NYCLU's tally of the year's data.
Virtually all of the arrests — more than 95 percent — were for black and Latino students, who make up about 70 percent of the city's enrollment. Three quarters were of male students. And 20 percent were of students between the ages of 11 and 14.
Two-thirds of the summonses were issued for "disorderly behavior," a category of offense that the NYLCU argues usually amounts to typical teenaged behavior. Those behaviors are best dealt with by educators, not by directing students into the criminal justice system, the group argues.
City high schools that don't require students to take Regents exams beat city averages on most metrics, even though they serve high-need students at the same rate as other schools, according to a new report.
The report, released this week, was produced by a group of the schools, the New York Performance Standards Consortium. But it examines independent data about student performance and persistence in college to find that students in consortium schools graduate at higher rates and are more likely to attend and remain enrolled in college. And it comes as Department of Education officials are increasingly touting the consortium's approach to assessment.
The graduation rates are especially high for students with disabilities and English language learners. Nearly 70 percent of ELLs in consortium schools graduate on time, according to the report, compared to about 40 percent across the city. And half of students with disabilities in the consortium schools graduate on time, compared with fewer than a quarter citywide.
"What's in [the report] is dynamite," said Michelle Fine, a professor of urban education at City University of New York's Graduate Center.
Fine was speaking at a press conference hosted by the New York Civil Liberties Union on alternatives to high-stakes testing earlier this week to announce that more than 1,100 academics had signed a letter opposing states' increasingly reliance on test scores.
New York public school students have fewer options for recourse against discrimination today than they did a week ago.
The state's highest court ruled last week that public school students cannot use New York's human rights law to seek recognition of discrimination — or get financial compensation when discrimination has taken place.
Never before have courts ruled that such a large group of constituents is not protected by the law, said Rebecca Shore, the director of litigation for Advocates for Children, which aims to protect low-income students from discrimination.
New York's human rights law, the first of its kind when it was passed in 1945, prohibits discrimination based on "age, race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, military status, sex or marital status" in a variety of settings, including "non-sectarian educational institutions," according to the State Division of Human Rights. Individuals can file complaints with the state's Division of Human Rights and seek restitution, all without paying for a lawyer.
But after two school districts contested the human rights division's jurisdiction to investigate and fine them, the New York State Court of Appeals ruled in a 4-3 decision that the division cannot probe discrimination claims in public schools.
When the city proposed changes to its discipline rules, its new policy towards "cyber-bullying" and "sexting" caught the public eye.
But the central changes have nothing to do with text messages. They represent a win by civil rights groups who have been calling on the city to make sure that schools use more counseling and less punishment and suspension to resolve problems.
At a hearing on the proposed changes Wednesday, one middle school principal described a program that she piloted and is now part of the new code. In some schools the program, which is known as PBIS and is designed to encourage good behavior in all students at a school, can include a reward system in which students collect points toward a prize for demonstrating things like good study skills.
Denise Jamison, principal of Williamsburg's M.S. 50, said that the program has helped improve the behavior of even some of her most struggling students. The "hottest ticket" for rewards, she said, is a "No Uniform Today" pass, or "NUT card." One day, she recalled, she pulled over a student well-known by school staff for his temper and asked why he wasn't in uniform.
"He pulls out [his NUT card], and we all started congratulating him," she said. "Because we knew how much he would have had to improved in order to earn that."
Mayor Bloomberg's school leadership has been characterized by secrecy, defiance of the law, and a heavy hand in school discipline, the New York Civil Liberties Union declared today in a report titled "The Price of Power."
The report details NYCLU's experiences with the Bloomberg-controlled Department of Education stalling on responding to Freedom of Information Law requests, refusing to comply with student safety-related laws passed by the City Council, and refusing to provide basic data about military recruitment that the organization said the U.S. Armed Forces provided freely.
The report deliberately avoids some of the major questions of the debate about mayoral control of the city's schools, including whether the mayor should appoint the chancellor and whether the mayor should control the number of seats on the citywide school board. But it does offer recommendations on the law, which is set to sunset June 30 if it's not renewed or revised.
The recommendations include making the public school system a city, rather than state, agency, which would bring it under a slate of good governance regulations about public notification of policy changes; opening the school system to audits by the city comptroller and public advocate; and requiring that schools contracts get publicly vetted.
Transforming the Department of Education into a city agency would also allow the City Council to make laws about the public schools that the DOE would be accountable for implementing. Like others recommending changes to mayoral control, NYCLU is saying that the city's Independent Budget Office should get the right to receive and review DOE data, but the group adds the idea that the department needs an "inspector general" who would investigate systemic wrongdoing.
At a LYFE center at Urban Academy. Picture by ##http://flickr.com/photos/rreid/##Los Dragonnes## via Flickr.
A report out today by the New York Civil Liberties Union says the Department of Education should bolster its daycare program for students with young children of their own. But because of budget cuts, the DOE could actually move in the opposite direction, cutting off young parents' access to free DOE-run daycare centers currently housed in 40 public schools across the city.
The programs, called LYFE centers, have existed since 1982. Last year, after the city eliminated special schools just for pregnant and parenting teens, saying that the schools were academically weak, the LYFE centers became the centerpiece of the DOE's services for young parents.
Now the centers could also be on the chopping block, a possibility that has one editor of the report worried.
Without the LYFE centers, "the DOE would lack any real meaningful services for this very high-risk population," Galen Sherwin, director of NYCLU's Reproductive Rights Program, told me. "The outcome would be devastating."
The LYFE centers have already taken a hit from the faltering economy.
For years, students and activists have complained that lines of authority in school discipline are muddled by the presence of New York Police Department safety agents in schools — and that the confusion can lead to abuses and conflict. As of today, the City Council is considering legislation to improve the school safety situation.
This afternoon, Robert Jackson, chairman of the City Council's education committee, introduced the Student Safety Act, which would make information about school safety more transparent and accessible, with the goal of clearing up lines of accountability and fostering a positive atmosphere in the city's schools. More than 100 supporters, from community organizations such as Make the Road New York and the Urban Youth Collaborative, gathered on the steps of City Hall this morning bearing signs that read "Graduation, Not Incarceration" and "Schools not Jails."