Black, low-income & special needs students pushed out through suspensions & arrests, NYCLU analysis finds
November 3, 2013
Black and low-income youth and students with special needs are disproportionately suspended and arrested in New York City public schools, a new report released today by the New York Civil Liberties Union shows. The report also includes new data that links suspension patterns to the NYPD’s unconstitutional stop-and-frisk practices.
“Our children’s constitutional right to an education is being undermined by the excessive NYPD role in routine matters of school discipline,” NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said. “The DOE’s overreliance on suspensions and the importation of police street tactics to the classroom are combining to force the most vulnerable youth out of school and into the criminal justice system.”
The report, A, B, C, D, STPP: How School Discipline Feeds the School-to-Prison Pipeline, documents how Bloomberg-era policy changes have dramatically increased the number of NYPD personnel and metal detectors in the schools, and how zero tolerance practices have skyrocketed.
“There is no clearer demonstration of the School to Prison Pipeline than when a disciplinary interaction between a student and police personnel leads to a student’s arrest,” said the report’s author, NYCLU Attorney and Equal Justice Works Fellow Samantha Pownall. “The next mayor, the DOE and the NYPD must work together to return discipline to the hands of educators, and reduce reliance on suspensions, summonses and arrests.”
Over the last decade, the suspension rate has more than doubled, from less than 29,000 in 2001 to nearly 70,000 in 2011. Despite small declines in recent years, dramatic disparities persist: Black students, who make up less than a third of total public school students (29 percent), served half (50 percent) of all 2010-11 suspensions. The NAACP Legal Defense fund called these policies “among the most aggressive and explicit School-to-Prison Pipeline policies in the country.”
Among the report’s findings:
- Students who live in areas where stop-and-frisk activity is high – such as East New York, Brownsville, Mott Haven, Jamaica and Harlem – are the most likely to be suspended from school (see map and Table 1).
- District 7 in the South Bronx had the highest suspension rate in the city – and also the highest enrollment of low-income students (see Table 2).
- Students with special needs are suspended twice as often as general education students.
- Black students with special needs serve 14 percent of overall suspensions, yet represent only 6 percent of total enrollment.
- White students serve only 7 percent of overall suspensions, yet make up 14 percent of total enrollment.
- During the Bloomberg administration, the number of NYPD “school safety” officers has increased by 35 percent, bringing the total to at least 5,400 officers – even though no evidence clearly links the decline of major crimes in city schools to the expanded police presence.
- Students eligible for free and reduced-price lunch (FLE) constitute two-thirds of New York City student population, but serve three-fourths of total suspensions.
- The racial disparities evident in the suspension data are amplified in arrests. More than 60 percent of all school arrests in New York involve black youth, who comprise less than a third of enrolled students. An arrested student is twice as likely to drop out of school — and dropouts are eight times more likely to land in jail.
Disproportionate school discipline reinforces the challenges faced by many students who are already less likely to graduate. Bloomberg’s 2003 disciplinary plan, Impact Schools, called for an immediate, consistent, response to even the most minor violation of a school’s disciplinary policy, and a three-strikes-and-you’re-out rule. Such zero-tolerance policies have been widely discredited as discriminatory and ineffective. Under the mayor’s policy, a student in a school with metal detectors caught with a cell phone may be treated as if he or she has smuggled in drugs or a weapon. These zero-tolerance policies have eroded federal protections that require public schools to carefully examine the connections between disability and behavior.