New City Deparment of Education Disciplinary Code Scales Back Student Suspensions, While State School Violence Data Shows Record Highs


It’s been an interesting week in the world of crime in schools.

Right in time for the new school year, which begins next week, the DOE released their new disciplinary manual, which seeks to minimize suspensions for students who commit “low-level” infractions.

As reported by the Times, city schools are attempting to respond to recent complaints that these low-level infractions were resulting in suspensions that kept students out of the classroom for pro-longed periods of time and created gaps in instruction.

Fresh on the heels of the DOE’s new disciplinary handbook, the State Department of Education has released their 2011-12 data for violent incidences in schools, which according to the Post shows record highs since 2005, when the data first started being recorded.

The DOE’s  new disciplinary code handbook seeks to reduce suspensions for low-level incidences such as unexcused absences, classroom disruptions, tardiness and the use of electronics during school hours.

As the Voice learned last month when we attended a roundtable discussion with concerned parents in the Bronx, these minor offenses had major consequences for students who were often missing weeks of school due to long suspensions and court appointments after teachers called in school safety officers to handle small classroom issues, which often led to arrests.

During last month’s roundtable one Bronx high school student named Chris told the story of his sister who has been in and out of school for the past three years for both classroom disruptions and fighting with other students. Chris shared that his sister was having a hard time making it to school with the many court appointments she had due to to summonses stemming from in-school arrests, and that lack of in-school counseling coupled with court appointments had kept his 19-year old sister from moving beyond the 11th grade.

Well, after receiving criticism from the City Council and a recent lawsuit filed by the New York Civil Liberties Union the DOE has responded and implemented a system, which calls upon teachers to mediate more incidences of classroom disturbances before involving school safety officers or issuing suspensions.

Ironically, as the DOE seeks to lessen students chances for suspension new data shows that student violence has nearly doubled, in some cases, since 2005.

As highlighted by the Post these incidences include a fifty percent increase in students being found in possession of drugs since 2008 with alcohol possession more than doubling since 2006. Student assaults were also up since 2009 and assaults with a weapon had double with a reported 491 incidents in the most recent school year. Lastly, there were over 2,000 cases of sexual offense documented in the 2011-12 school year.

This data doesn’t exactly jibe with what NYPD Assistant Chief Brian Conroy told Bronx parents last month, when he said that crime in schools was the lowest it had ever been, since this type of data had been recorded, in the last two years.

So what’s with the spike in student-on-student violence?

State Education officials claim that the numbers are a product of greater efficiency in reporting incidents of student crimes in schools, rather than more crimes actually occurring.

Perhaps concerned parents will get more answers when the City Council holds a hearing on the issue of school crime and safety as well as student arrests later this year in October.