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NYC Charter Schools Chief Rips De Blasio Discipline Code Plan

By    |   Thursday, 02 April 2015 05:48 PM

A proposed new disciplinary code for New York City's public schools is rife with problems, writes a charter schools expert.

In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, Eva Moskowitz — the founder and CEO of Success Academy Charter Schools — blasts Mayor Bill de Blasio's proposal that is slated to go into effect this month.

Moskowitz labels the policy, which punishes misbehaving students with what she calls "pretend suspensions" and mandates that conflicts be resolved through "dialogue as equals," as "nonsense."

"If student A 'impacts' student B with a fist, they shouldn't 'dialogue as equals.' Student A should be disciplined," Moskowitz writes.

Moskowitz opens her story with a recent example of eighth graders at a New York City elementary school organizing a "fight club" for first graders. Those who chose not to participate in the club were beat up.

"This disgraceful episode comes at a time when many across the country are engaging in a misguided campaign to diminish the school discipline needed to ensure a nurturing and productive learning environment," Moskowitz writes.

Called the "Citywide Behavioral Expectations To Support Student Learning," de Blasio's proposed new behavioral code for students, writes Moskowitz, "is full of edu-babble."

"For example, the code promotes 'restorative circles.' What is that? It's a 'community process for supporting those in conflict [that] brings together the three parties to a conflict — those who have acted, those directly impacted and the wider community — within an intentional systemic context, to dialogue as equals,'" she writes.

Included in the policy's section on suspensions, for example, is a disciplinary method called a Principal's Suspension. This involves removing a student from a classroom for up to five days and putting him or her in another location within the school for continued course work.

"A principal has the authority to suspend a student for 1-5 days when a student's behavior presents a clear and present danger of physical injury to the student, other students or school personnel, or prevents the orderly operation of classes or other school activities," the policy reads.

"Suspended students must be provided with instruction including homework and classwork at an alternative instructional site within the school."

The next step up from a Principal's Suspension would be a Superintendent's Suspension, which removes a student from the school and involves giving the student "alternate education at a location that will be outside the school building. At the end of the suspension period the student must be reinstated to his/her original school."

Moskowitz takes issue with what she calls "lax discipline."

"Suspensions convey the critical message to students and parents that certain behavior is inconsistent with being a member of the school community," she writes. "Pretend suspensions, in which a student is allowed to remain in the school community, do not convey that message. Many students actually feed off the attention they get for misbehaving. Keeping these students in school encourages that misbehavior.

"Proponents of lax discipline claim it would benefit minority students, who are suspended at higher rates than their white peers. But minority students are also the most likely to suffer the adverse consequences of lax discipline — that is, their education is disrupted by a chaotic school environment or by violence."

Moskowitz cites statistics from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene that claim 4 percent of New York City students carry a weapon to school, and 2 percent carry a gun to school.

"Thus, in a high school of 3,000 students, 60 may carry weapons, posing an enormous risk to their classmates," she writes.

A former New York City council member, Moskowitz founded Success Academy Charter Schools in 2006. There are now 32 Success Academy schools spread across four of New York City's boroughs.

Moskowitz writes that her school system suspended 11 percent of its 7,000 students last year, during which there were 22 schools. That amounts to a rate 4 percent higher than city schools, but Moskowitz claims Success Academy Charter Schools received more than 20,000 applications for just 2,688 openings.

"Mayor de Blasio's proposed disciplinary code is a step in the wrong direction," Moskowitz concludes. "Lax discipline won't strike a blow for civil rights. Instead it will perpetuate the real civil-rights violation — the woeful failure to educate the vast majority of the city's minority children and prepare them for life's challenges. In New York City, 143,000 children, 96 percent of them minorities, are trapped in failing schools where less than one in 10 students passes state exams.

"Anyone who wants students to succeed in life should focus on better education, not on more lax discipline."

In February, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced he would increase funding for charter schools and said they are an avenue for improving New York City's struggling public school system.

Last year, de Blasio kicked Success Academy out of three city school buildings but promised to find a school for the affected students.

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A proposed new disciplinary code for New York City's public schools is rife with problems, writes a charter schools expert.
disciplinary, code, new york city, public, schools, charter, criticism, bill de blasio
Thursday, 02 April 2015 05:48 PM
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