Quinn unveils plan to drop student suspension and arrest rates and create a system that prioritizes education first and safety always

Christine Quinn today presented her plan for dramatically reducing the numbers of students who are suspended and arrested. Under Quinn’s plan, educators, principals and parents will be empowered to intervene in students’ disciplinary matters and the damaging consequences suspensions and arrests – including failing, dropping out, committing crimes and becoming incarcerated – will be prevented.

Quinn stated, “The vast majority of school discipline matters can and should be handled by educators, not by law enforcement officers and the courts. School Safety Officers are an important element of a school’s culture, but we need to work to make suspensions and arrests the exception, not the norm. My plan makes them vital partners in a system that prioritizes education first and safety always.” 

Specifically, Quinn detailed a plan that will:

End the practice of arresting students for minor in-school offenses. Right now, students can be arrested for actions formerly – and more appropriately – handled in the classroom by teachers. Students who write on desks, for example, can be arrested for graffiti. Chris’s plan will require minor offenses to be dealt with by the school’s educational staff and eliminate the practice of summonsing or arresting students based solely on non-criminal violations of the law.

Limit the use of restraints by SSOs to situations with a threat of physical harm. School Safety Officers often use restraints, including handcuffs, to detain students. In many cases, this results in an unnecessary escalation of the situation, a stigmatization of the child and students facing charges for additional infractions such as resisting arrest. Chris will provide clear guidelines for when to use restraints and limit their use to the most serious situations.

Ensure immediate school and parent notification of arrests. Under the current system, a child can be arrested or given a summons at school without notifying the school’s principal or the child’s parent. Chris will ensure that School Safety Officers notify principals before any arrest or summons is issued so that when possible, a non-criminal solution can be worked out. In the event of a serious infraction, School Safety Officers and principals will be required to contact parents immediately.

Direct the newly created Deputy Mayor for Education and Children to create a new school support plan. Chris will direct her newly created Deputy Mayor for Education and Children to convene leading voices to develop a comprehensive plan for reducing discipline problems, increasing the graduation rate and developing services to meet the multifaceted needs of New York City schoolchildren. ­Chris will also create policy to minimize the use of criminal justice as a school disciplinary tool through a new Memorandum of Understanding between the Department of Education and the NYPD.

Make principals the final arbiters of school safety and culture. Chris will empower principals to make critical disciplinary decisions at their schools. She’ll allow them to interview School Safety Agents before they join the school and will give them increased authority over personnel decisions relating to school safety. Chris will also require regular meetings between principals, teachers and School Safety Agents.

Ensure School Safety Agents receive training on educational issues and child development in addition to NYPD training.Chris will provide School Safety Agents with substantial training on topics like child development and psychology, conflict and crisis de-escalation techniques, children with disabilities and bias-based and sexual harassment. Additionally, she’ll make sure that agents are informed about the full legal process students face following summons and how it affects youths’ immigration status, higher education and housing. 

There were 2,548 arrests and summonses in the 2011-2012 school year, more than 11 per day. In the same school year, there were nearly 70,000 suspensions in city schools, 40 percent more than six years earlier. Suspensions can have a dramatic impact on a student’s future; suspensions are linked to falling behind in school, failing, dropping out of school and committing crimes. Students suspended three or more times are five times more likely to drop out of school. Students with an arrest are twice as likely to drop out of school, and those with a court appearance are four times as likely to drop out. Students who drop out of school are three times as likely to become incarcerated.