There was a piece today in the New York Post on declining suspensions that has quotes from United For Change candidate Kathy Perez and two Unity chapter leaders along with other teachers, a union head for the Safety Agents and parents.
First some facts on the decreasing number of suspensions in NYC schools:
Fall reports (September-December) for students suspended by principals and district superintendents have plummeted:
2020: N/A (remote learning)
United for Change executive board candidate Kathy Perez is quoted:
“Right now, with the way the discipline code is, it’s basically, ‘Stop doing that or else we’ll ask you again,” said Queens teacher Kathy Perez. “The kids know that there are no consequences.”
Kids who want to learn, the vast majority, get cheated.
Now the Unity chapter leaders:
Adam Bergstein, a United Federation of Teachers chapter leader at Forest Hills High School, who started a petition two months ago to push for more discipline in city schools signed by more than 560 people, says administrators’ hands are tied.
“If you start suspending more kids, you’re going to be called on the carpet,” he said. “Schools that should be suspending children are leery because they don’t want to then have to defend their suspension to the DOE.”
Restorative justice is “well intentioned,” said Cardozo High School teacher Dino Sferrazza, a UFT chapter leader, “but they’re aren’t enough restorative justice teams — social workers, guidance counselors — and then you have kids who repeatedly get into trouble and nothing gets done.”
Restorative justice doesn’t work with “the persistent offender, with the violent offender, with the kid that you’ve tried other things,” Sferrazza said. “But everyone’s afraid of suspending kids because you’re back to, ‘Your numbers are up, your numbers for particular kids are up, for Hispanic, black and brown kids, are up.’ They don’t want that heat.
“The argument was made that that’s what it was — suspending kids based on what they look like. I will tell you my experience, that was never the case,” he added.
In the end, students who follow the rules often lose out on instructional time — or lose their way altogether, worried teachers said.
“They don’t see the benefits of following the rules and being decent,” the Brooklyn educator bemoaned, recalling a kid who told her, ‘I’m really just done with school.'”
We have a bipartisan agreement on the need to improve school safety. The safety agents union leader is quoted in the piece but not Michael Mulgrew or anyone from the UFT's top leadership.