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Sharon has a learning disability and recently graduated from high school thanks to AFC's assistance securing the support she needed to learn.

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11.20.2014 | SchoolBook | Bernard Dufresne, a staff attorney at Advocates for Children, said he thought the school missed an opportunity to encourage a conversation between the parties in a much more constructive setting. "Principals in many ways see a suspension as the first option," he said, adding that suspensions were "not an investment in the student's academic outcomes" and that students often returned more disengaged from school. While the current discipline code allows for other interventions, including mediation and restorative justice, there are not strong incentives to encourage many principals to change their ways. Read article

11.13.2014 | Chalkbeat New York | While there are dozens of programs able to serve thousands of high-school students who fall behind, fewer than 450 slots exist in programs for overage middle school students, according to a recent report by the nonprofit Advocates for Children... Ashley Grant, a staff attorney at Advocates for Children and the lead author of the report on overage middle-school students, said her 16-year-old client, an eighth-grader at New Directions, has already benefitted from being around classmates her age for “the first time in years.” Read article

11.06.2014 | Chalkbeat New York | The matter is especially delicate at Boys and Girls, which was the subject of a class action lawsuit a decade ago alleging that the school warehoused troublesome students in the auditorium as a way to push them out. Brown’s claim—that he was pressured to transfer to another school—differs from the 2005 lawsuit, which alleged that the school’s actions drove students to drop out of school completely, said Rebecca Shore, director of litigation at Advocates for Children, the nonprofit that helped file the lawsuit. (As part of a 2008 settlement, the city agreed to put Boys and Girls under the oversight of a monitor for several years and make sure the school got approval before transferring students.) Still, Brown’s situation highlights a common problem, Shore said. Students have the right to remain in school until the end of the year they turn 21, and administrators must follow strict protocols to make students switch schools against their will. But administrators sometimes work around those rules by convincing students that they will not graduate from their current school, and so should transfer to an alternative school, Shore said. “It comes off in theory as the student wanting this and consenting,” she said. “But really, it’s more of the school pushing the student out.” Read article

10.30.2014 | New York Daily News | Piece by Nick Sheehan, Skadden Fellow on AFC's School Justice Project, informing the greater NYC community that students who are suspended have basic due process rights. The hearing allows the accused to present their version of events and to question any evidence the school wants to submit. The school must present a witness or the accused student has to admit to wrongdoing. Without either one, the charges are dismissed. Read article

10.30.2014 | Huffington Post | Bernard Dufresne, a staff attorney for the nonprofit group Advocates for Children, called for more transparency when it comes to restraining students, pointing to the success of the 2010 Student Safety Act in reducing superfluous suspensions. “Thanks in part to the Student Safety Act, which requires the [DOE] to report on the number of suspensions every school year, suspensions have slowly started to drop,” said Dufresne. “Similarly, the DOE should have to report on the use of handcuffs on students, along with the number of arrests and summonses.” Read article

10.29.2014 | SchoolBook | The civil liberties union and the group Advocates for Children want the City Council to support legislation — yet to be drafted — that would require the city to report detailed data on how many students are handcuffed. The city already requires the Department of Education to report the number of annual suspensions, which have declined since the law was signed into effect in 2011. Read article

10.28.2014 | Capital New York | Other parents criticized the D.O.E. for not providing appropriate services for their children who struggled with reading. Representatives from Advocates for Children, a leading organization for special education students in New York, called on the D.O.E. Tuesday to improve literacy training in pre-K and up, provide additional screening for disabilities, and provide more information for parents on how to help their special needs students at home, particularly with boosting literacy. Read article

10.27.2014 | Chalkbeat New York | Others see the hearing as an opportunity to get beyond the questions of legal mandates and ask questions about what those students with disabilities are learning. Kim Sweet, executive director of Advocates for Children of New York, is waiting to hear about how the department can help schools lift academic achievement for students with disabilities. Just 6 percent of those students hit the state’s proficiency standard on its English and math exams in the 2012-13 school year, compared to 35 percent of students without disabilities. “It’s really time to focus on preparing these schools pedagogically to meet the needs of a wider range of students,” Sweet said. Read article

10.22.2014 | Chalkbeat New York | Advocates for Children of New York Executive Director Kim Sweet said her organization would lend its support to the bill, which she said could spur improvements to services for city students, when it is discussed next week. “We will be testifying in support of the effort to make public the delays in service provision and to hold the DOE accountable for those delays,” Sweet said. Read article

10.15.2014 | Chalkbeat New York | Still, they reflect the new demands that have been placed on schools by the city’s special-education overhaul, which calls for neighborhood schools to serve special-needs students whom they might have referred elsewhere in the past, and to try to place those students in classes alongside their non-disabled peers whenever possible. The new policies had already been in effect for a year when these complaints were filed in 2013 and similar problems continue to crop up today, advocates say. “We’re still getting cases that sound just like ones we were getting two years ago as they were just starting to roll this out,” said Maggie Moroff, special education policy coordinator at Advocates for Children, who backs the city’s new inclusion policies but said many schools still struggle to carry them out. “Something gets lost in translation,” she said. Read article