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NYC Reports Student Suspensions Up, Serious Crimes Down

The New York Times is reporting that city schools handed out more suspensions in 2011 than 2010, but that may be attributed to less-serious problems increasing while big problems declined.

This is certainly good news, as students should be able to enjoy a safe and sound learning environment. But student discipline in New York can sometimes lead to legal problems when a school district oversteps its bounds.
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According to The Times article, there were 73,441 suspensions in 2011, up from 71,721 a year earlier. In that time frame, schools gave fewer “superintendent suspensions,” which can kick students out of school for between six days and a few months, depending on the allegations.

The article states there were far more “principal suspensions,” which are less serious than superintendent suspensions. Principal suspensions can range from one to five days. Examples of common principal suspensions are for cursing at a teacher or cheating. Superintendent suspensions are likely for fighting and other serious offenses.

The article reports that there isn’t reliable data to compare suspensions across the city, especially because the education department has opened small 500- to 600-student schools and are less likely than large schools to dole out large numbers of suspensions. The data released didn’t include citywide totals, the average length of suspensions, the age of students and the most common infractions.

The article reports that students were suspended for smoking, arriving late for class, horseplay or being rude. One teacher said many schools will give a kid a slap on the wrist, but principals were more aggressive, suspending kids. At one East Harlem school, there were 294 suspensions and only 266 students. At a larger school of 3,925 students, there were 2,097 suspensions.

Black and Hispanic students receive most school suspensions. More than half of all suspensions were given to black students in 2011, though they account for only about 1/3 of all students. Hispanic students received 37 percent of suspensions and they make up 40 percent of students. About 1/3 of all suspensions were given to special education students.

These numbers fit perfectly with a blog that Great Neck education lawyers wrote recently. It looked at anti-bullying efforts that schools have made and reported that research has shown that disadvantaged students suffer the most from these rules and laws. The UCLA Civil Rights Project reported that minority and disabled students end up getting unjustly punished because of anti-bullying policies. The New York City schools numbers seem to support that conclusion.

All students have a right to an education and without it, they can be put at a greater disadvantage than their peers. As adults, we know how competitive the job market is and college admission is equally difficult. Students must have the opportunity to strive while schools maintain the balance of discipline.

For a student to miss school time for a day or more for “being rude,” is ridiculous. Students have rights just like all Americans and they have a right to be treated fairly. If “being rude” doesn’t constitute a suspension in one school, but does in another, that is a problem and that means there is room for improvement.

The Law Offices of Ira S. Newman provides education legal counsel in New York City, Long Island, Great Neck and throughout the area. Call 516-487-7375 or contact us through the website.

More Blog Entries:

Great Neck SAT Cheating Scandal Requires Education Law Lawyer: October 31, 2011
New York Anti-Bullying Rules Hurt Disadvantaged Students, Study Shows: October 11, 2011
Additional Resources:

City Reports More Suspensions, but Serious Crimes Declined, by Anna M. Phillips, The New York Times