Photo Courtesy of Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office
According to Mayor de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Carranza, the overhaul is designed to help school communities be more proactive in changing school culture and climate.
By Forum Staff
For the first time in NYC history, all students will have access to Social-Emotional Learning and Restorative Justice practices and, when needed, earlier intervention from clinical social workers, the de Blasio administration announced Thursday as part of a major overhaul of the Department of Education’s disciplinary system.
According to officials, the investment is designed to help school communities be more proactive in changing school culture and climate. The DOE will provide all elementary schools with access to an SEL curriculum in partnership with National University System’s Sanford Harmony program. It will also build RJ practices into all middle and high schools, providing students with the tools they need to name their emotions, overcome conflicts, and repair relationships.
In collaboration with the United Federation of Teachers, the national educators’ union, 50 middle schools will receive more intensive programming through the Positive Learning Collaborative model, a restorative approach to changing school climate. This work will be enhanced with a new NYC Thrive initiative of 85 licensed, borough-based clinical social workers specifically designed to support teachers and directly help students facing emotional distress from the point of crisis to a handoff to long-term care, if necessary.
Several reforms that will be enacted as part of the new school disciplinary package include:
• A new City Police Department-DOE Memorandum of Understanding governs police engagement in schools following a three-year collaborative process. The MOU clarifies the roles of NYPD and DOE in addressing school misconduct “and stresses their joint commitment to ensuring that schools are safe havens for our students,” according to the administration.
• The Patrol Guide, given to all NYPD patrol officers, significantly limits in-school arrests for low-level offenses, including marijuana possession, and limits allowable circumstances for in-school arrests to felony crimes, sex offenses, crimes where there is an immediate risk of escape or where the perpetrator is in hot pursuit, and similar situations. The guide also reiterates that a principal or similar trusted adult staff member will serve as the in-school student advocate until a parent or guardian arrives.
• Proposed changes to the DOE Discipline Code will keep suspensions below 20 days in most cases except in those that involve serious or violent incidents, including firearm offenses with a state-mandated suspension length. The change will build on existing strategies developed by the DOE’s Division of School Climate and Wellness that have already reduced the average DOE suspension from 21 days to 13 days. DOE will host community engagement forums in all five boroughs beginning in July. DOE will also issue for the first time a comprehensive guide, with training, to ensure that each school has a proper classroom removal process.
“Throughout the last school year, students across the city have sent the clear message to City Hall and the City Council that more counseling and services are what they need to feel safer in schools, not more law enforcement,” said Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton), chairman of the Committee on Public Safety. “Thankfully, today’s announcement shows that those voices did not fall on deaf ears as the Department of Education is now dedicating their efforts on social-emotional learning and restorative justice as opposed to punitive justice.”