The number of suspensions given to New York City students has plummeted by more than one third this year.
About 16,000 suspensions were issued in the latter half of 2012, down from more than 25,000 during the latter half of 2011, a drop of just over 36 percent, according to data from the city Department of Education.
The drop comes after the City Council passed legislation in 2011 banning schools from suspending students for minor infractions such as swearing, smoking or cutting class. The length of suspensions has also been reduced for more serious infractions like entering school without permission or defying authority. Schools can now only suspend a student for up to five days when previously they were allowed to do so for more than that.
Before the law, suspensions in city schools were on the increase, causing parents to complain. Critics of suspensions say the punishment hurts students academically while doing little to prevent infractions, and that the punishment has affected minority and special-needs students most often.
“Students see it as a vacation, not a punishment,” one Queens high school teacher said.
Opponents of the 2011 law say the threat of suspensions alone reduces infractions, and private schools with tougher penalties see less fighting and other types of bad behavior. But the DOE said total crimes in schools were down just under 25 percent from last July through December as compared to the same period in 2011.
The data may also be slightly skewed due to a 45 percent drop in suspensions in November after Hurricane Sandy, when city schools were closed for a week.
“We have been working closely with schools to implement other disciplinary methods such as counseling, restorative approaches and peer mediation,” a DOE spokesman said in a statement. “As a result, schools have continued to see improvements in school culture and environment.”