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Queens Chronicle

ON POINT ‘Restorative justice’ in, school discipline out

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Posted: Thursday, September 5, 2019 10:30 am | Updated: 12:50 pm, Thu Sep 5, 2019.

What will it take for New Yorkers to acknowledge that our education system is failing a generation of children and it needs to make a course correction? Educators are trying against all odds to teach our kids while mired in a system that is designed to overlook misbehavior, disrespect and even brutal attacks on teachers.

Three short years ago I wrote about the city’s educational and political establishment introducing policies that eroded school disciplinary codes and undermined teacher efforts in the classroom and students’ ability to learn. I wrote back then that, by tinkering with the discipline code in 2015, Mayor de Blasio made it virtually impossible for teachers and principals to discipline students for behavior that in the past would have led directly to a suspension. Suspensions would no longer be granted for incidents such as spitting, shoving, throwing objects or bolting out of a classroom or profanity even if directed at teachers. Without serious punishment, classrooms are no longer conducive to learning and have become chaotic environments inviting more disruptions for those who desperately wish to learn.

The mayor’s new policy directives required principals to go through a laborious process in order to receive approval from Department of Education bureaucrats before a suspension would be granted for classroom insubordination. Virtually all disruptive behaviors would no longer merit grounds for suspension. Instead, principals were directed to utilize a new approach called “restorative justice.” Rather than suspending a student for antisocial or aggressive behavior to provide temporary relief from antilearning behaviors, restorative justice demands that we ask the offending student to “think really hard” about what he or she has done, or write a note of apology or essay explaining why their behavior was wrong. Only an unbending rigid ideology would be so incapable of understanding the damage such antisocial behaviors have on the classroom that even granting temporary relief is too much to ask.

It was obvious even back in 2015 that these socially engineered measures would create significant obstacles for teachers and students concerned about a favorable learning environment. Coddling disruptive students predictably increases the amount of insubordination and boisterous conduct in the classroom.

Four years after implementation of restorative justice policies, the results are in, and they are not pretty. Knife seizures have almost doubled since de Blasio started tinkering with the discipline codes shortly after he was first elected. In the 2018-19 school year, police confiscated more than 2,500 weapons of all types, 1,600 of which were knives. According to a report released by state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, city schools led the entire state in the number of “violent and disruptive incidents” last year. These incidents included assaults, sexual offenses and bomb threats. Although city schools account for 40 percent of the students in the state, they accounted for 56 percent of all incidents statewide. The number of sexual offenses in the city was more than three times higher than in other counties. Another disturbing statistic was that only 8.3 percent of traditional city public schools reported zero incidents; while 47.2 percent of Long Island schools and 25 percent of city public charter schools did.

Teamsters Local 237 President Gregory Floyd, who represents more than 5,000 school safety agents, has blamed a rise in bullying among students on de Blasio’s relaxed schooldiscipline policies, which allow misbehavior to propagate without consequences in the public school system. But remarkably, de Blasio praised the program of restorative justice and touted schools as being safer than ever. He said, “We had to address the overuse of suspension.” The city recently announced it will be adding 285 social workers to the “safer than ever” city schools for “social-emotional support.”

The data simply do not support the mayor’s boast of safety inside our schools. Many teachers, principals, administrators and parents have spoken to the media about anarchy in the classroom, thanks to a system that rewards permissiveness and punishes disciplinary actions by teachers.

United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew said he agrees in theory with the restorative justice approach, but he has warned in the past that thousands of children affected by tolerance of misbehavior “will lose instruction as a result of those disruptions.” Such tepid criticism by Mulgrew of the mayor’s grand social engineering scheme is not surprising, since de Blasio has negotiated favorable teacher compensation contracts that exceed inflation and work rules providing more nonclassroom time for teachers. Unfortunately, with no pushback from voters or the union representing those teachers on the front line of this anarchy, a system that condones student misbehavior, pot smoking in the hallways, profanities hurled at teachers, chair-shoving and assaults is unlikely to change.

Bob Friedrich is President of Glen Oaks Village, a civic leader and a former City Council candidate.

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1 comment:

  • Linnster posted at 9:19 am on Fri, Sep 6, 2019.

    Linnster Posts: 10

    Back in the day when I was in school, they had what were called "600 Schools." This was where students that were disruptive were sent rather than suspending or expelling them. That left the rest of the students to learn without disruptions or fear of being harmed and teachers could do their jobs without worrying about being hit, hurt, spit at, etc. Time to reinstate the 600 Schools again. We spend a lot of money on education only to turn out too many mediocre students or worse, create and permit an unsafe environment for all involved.