Suspensions in New York City Schools Are Down by a Third

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Two teenage girls and teenage boy (14-16) walking up school steps, rear view
Keepin' em in school.Photo: Digital Vision/(c) Digital Vision

New policies in New York City public schools have been curbing the number of kids sent home for acting out. In the last six months of 2015, suspensions dropped by over 30 percent from the same time the year before, following a push from Bill de Blasio’s administration to dial back schools’ disciplinary measures.

The downturn in suspensions started under Bloomberg, but de Blasio’s administration has been working toward a holistic approach to school discipline, known as “restorative justice,” in which administrators and teachers talk a student through what is causing them to act out, trying to address their needs rather than reacting punitively. Notably, the new policies have made it harder for schools to suspend students for “insubordination” — that type of action dropped by 81 percent between July and December of last year, the most significant factor in the overall downturn. 

In 2007, the ACLU released a report on school suspensions, saying that strict enforcement pushes students out of school and into the hands of the criminal-justice system at an early age, setting off a cycle that, for many, is hard to break. New York City public schools took street-policing tactics into the schools in the ‘90s, as the thought was that the crime epidemic was fostered inside those institutions. Now the NYPD is looking at which high schools can do away with the now-ubiquitous metal detectors.