New York Students Need Solutions from Adults, Not Suspensions

“There is a looming youth mental health crisis that must be addressed, and the professionals who educate our children have the knowledge and skills to help our young people. Suspending struggling youth only compounds the crisis, and we must reimagine school discipline to ensure that all students, regardless of race or ability, can thrive in their schools.”

William Alatriste for the New York City Council

Students rally outside City Hall in 2015 calling for an overhaul of the city’s school discipline policy.

Every student deserves a school year with a restored sense of normalcy and consistency. Unfortunately, too many students will have their learning interrupted this year by the exclusionary discipline of suspensions.

Suspending students from school creates a lot of harm. A report from the New York Civil Liberties Union notes that children who are suspended are “more likely to fall behind in school, be retained a grade, drop out of high school, commit a crime, and become incarcerated as an adult.” Suspensions indirectly feed the school-to-prison pipeline, as students who were already struggling fall further behind, lose hope and spend more time in environments that may not be conducive to their emotional regulation and maturity.

The report also states that “the best demographic indicators of children who will be suspended are not the type or severity of the crime, but the color of their skin, their special education status, the school they go to, and whether they have been suspended before.” An aggregate of data from 2018-2021 shows that Black and multi-racial students are twice as likely to receive an out of school suspension than students from other ethnic and racial demographics. Studies have show that adults are more likely to see Black youth as older and behaving with more intention, rather than young people who’ve made a mistake and are in need of support to learn better.

The Judith Kaye School Solutions Not Suspensions Act addresses these issues. It promotes proven methods that hold students accountable and help them learn from their mistakes, while keeping them in the classroom. For seven years, this bill has been introduced in the New York State legislature, but has not received enough support to make it to the floor for a vote. We have to change that.