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NYC Council Bill Improves Student Safety Act

Police serve as safety officers in New York City public schools. Credit: Jim.henderson/Wikimedia Commons
Police serve as safety officers in New York City public schools. Credit: Jim.henderson/Wikimedia Commons
September 30, 2015

NEW YORK - Children's advocates are calling a bill requiring the New York City Department of Education to make information about school discipline public a model for the nation.

Police serve as safety officers in public schools and discipline can include arrests as well as suspensions. According to Kim Sweet, executive director of Advocates for Children of New York, the current law does give some data on the frequency and type of discipline taking place in the schools.

"But there were big holes in that data," she said, "and this important law will close a lot of those holes and make it more understandable for all of us to see what's going on in the schools."

The amendments to the Student Safety Act also mandate public disclosure of school discipline data, including any arrests on school property, students removed from classrooms by teachers and students transported by emergency medical services to a hospital.

Sometimes, Sweet said, a teacher will call for an ambulance to control a student having an emotional episode.

"We've seen it for years," she said, "that basically a child has a meltdown of sorts in the classroom and they call EMS and take him to the hospital which promptly discharges him."

Advocates for Children has represented students in suspension proceeding for decades. Sweet said public disclosure could help expose disparities in the type and severity of discipline schoolchildren experience.

"What we've seen pretty consistently," she said, "is that students who are black and students who have disabilities face suspension disproportionately to their peers."

Advocates for Children says it will continue working with the City Council and the Department of Education to get students the support services and interventions they need to stay and succeed in school.

The bill, Int 0730-2915, is online at legistar.council.nyc.gov.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NY