On Tuesday, July 16, the New York City Comptroller's Office issued a report called “The Suspension Spike: Changing the Discipline Culture in NYC’s Middle Schools,” which "offers a blueprint for replacing the DOE’s failed zero-tolerance policy with restorative justice practices that help middle-school students stay in school and remain on the path to college and career readiness."
According to a press release from the Comptroller's Office, "The report found that New York City middle schools suspended an average of 100 students a school day in the 2011-2012 school year. Almost all of those suspended were either black or Hispanic. It also found that middle-school students received 68 percent more suspensions than high-school students."
It also says:
"The report urges that middle schools adopt a restorative justice approach to discipline that combines added support with high expectations and accountability. These approaches not only give students ways to understand and make amends for negative behavior but also seek to reduce the severity and frequency of future incidents, create a more positive school climate, improve educational outcomes, and help keep students on the path to high school graduation and beyond." [emphasis added]
The report recommends:
- Training educators in restorative justice – DOE should pilot an approach known as “whole-school climate change” at the 30 schools with the greatest number of suspensions.
- Hiring more middle-school counselors and social workers to reduce the student-to-counselor ratio to 250:1 and the student-to-social worker ratio to 400:1, as well as provide targeted interventions for students with behavior issues.
- Eliminating suspensions for minor infractions and those that last for more than 10 days.
- Empowering principals to oversee school discipline – including the School Safety Agents now under the authority of the NYPD – in order to emphasize education over incarceration.
John Bailie, Assistant Professor and Director of Continuing Education, IIRP, is quoted as saying: “The International Institute for Restorative Practices wholeheartedly supports the recommendations of the New York City Comptroller’s office contained in this report. The data demonstrates that restorative practices and other allied approaches to school climate offer a powerful new vision for pro-social development and discipline in schools. The Comptroller’s office is showing tremendous vision in their commitment to youth. Our children deserve safe school communities where they can learn, thrive, and realize their potential to become productive citizens.”
An article titled "Why Middle School Matters" by Carolyn Karo at the Comptroller's blog adds:
"The Suspension Spike recommends that the Department of Education pilot the Institute of Restorative Practice’s (IIRP) 'Safer Saner Schools' program at the 30 NYC middle schools reporting the greatest number of suspensions. The two-year pilot would cost $1.3 million. If successful, expanding the program to 100 additional middle schools in the following two years would only cost another $2.1 million per year annually."