• Joanne Jacobs

Discipline reform and disorder in New York City

Suspensions are down at New York City schools, but teachers and students report more disorder, disrespect, fighting, gang activity and drug and alcohol use, concludes School Discipline Reform and Disorder by Max Eden, a Manhattan Institute senior fellow.

Eden relies on the district’s surveys, which ask teachers and students about learning conditions in their school. The first wave of discipline reform under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, which banned suspension for first-time, low-level offenses, had little effect on school climate, surveys show. However, school climate “deteriorated rapidly” after Mayor Bill De Blasio required principals to seek permission from district administrators to suspend a student, the study found.

Last year, Families for Excellent Schools  charged that violence had increased by 23 percent in New York City schools. The district said violent incidents requiring police attention were down 8 percent.

Nationwide, 27 states have reduced the use of suspension and expulsion, and “more than 50 of America’s largest school districts, serving more than 6.35 million students, have implemented discipline reforms,” Eden writes. Teachers are complaining in many cities.

One Chicago teacher told the Chicago Tribune that her district’s new discipline policy led to “a totally lawless few months” at her school. One Denver teacher told Chalkbeat that, under the new discipline policy, students had threatened to harm or kill teachers, “with no meaningful consequences.” . . . After Oklahoma City Public Schools revised its discipline policies in response to federal pressure, one teacher told the Oklahoman that “[w]e were told that referrals would not require suspension unless there was blood.”

Eden warns that school order isn’t dependent on “the number of students suspended but rather on classroom culture,” reports the New York Post. Surveys show students perceive “discipline to be more unfair now than five years ago, when there were nearly twice as many suspensions.”

Suspension curbs have “harmed minority students the most,” writes Hans Bader on Liberty Unyielding. The worst declines in school climate and safety occurred at secondary schools with high percentages of minority students, Eden found.

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