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04.19.2017 | New York Daily News | Advocates say the services are needed now more than ever because the city’s homeless crisis has reached historic proportions, with an all-time high of 105,000 kids in temporary housing now enrolled in public schools. “Students living in shelters need supports in order to succeed in school,” said Randi Levine, policy director for the non-profit group Advocates for Children of New York. “With a record number of students living in shelters, now is the time for the city to increase its support, not pull it away,” Levine added. Read article

04.13.2017 | Chalkbeat New York | Officials rejected 453 of the 2,008 requests to suspend students for insubordination, or 23 percent. And they rejected about 20 percent of the 1,039 attempts to suspend students in grades K-3, or 31 percent if you include the more serious suspensions that already required approval. “It is promising to see that there are rejections and that suspensions are not rubber-stamped by the Department of Education,” said Dawn Yuster, the school justice project director at Advocates for Children. “They’re using this as a way of showing schools they’re serious about the policy changes.” Read article

03.31.2017 | Chalkbeat New York | “Although the city has seen a positive drop in the numbers of suspensions, we still have far to go,” said Dawn Yuster, the school justice project director at Advocates for Children, who added that her organization receives hundreds of calls each year from students facing suspensions, and that most are black or have disabilities. Yuster criticized the city’s commitment to school discipline reform in the long term. “The city’s preliminary budget does not contain the funding that is needed to maintain the gains from earlier investments in school discipline reform and support schools that are looking to move away from exclusionary discipline practices.” Read article

03.28.2017 | Politico New York | Tami and thousands of other undocumented students in America’s largest public school system are testing the boundaries of how much a fiercely liberal, "sanctuary city" can do to protect some of its most vulnerable students as the Trump administration pursues more aggressive deportation policies. There are roughly 38,000 undocumented students in Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan and the Bronx, according to the Migration Policy Institute. “We are thinking about worst case scenarios that we never thought would ever happen that now can happen,” said Abja Midha, the immigrant students’ rights project director for Advocates for Children. “There is this feeling that anything is possible.” Read article

03.21.2017 | WNYC | The group Advocates for Children of New York said the city is taking the right steps, but urged it to go even farther by barring federal immigration officials from school property entirely, if they don't have a warrant. The group also said decisions about whether agents can enter schools should be made by superintendents, not principals. Read article

03.13.2017 | Politico New York | Now, as city officials start preparing for the executive budget, advocates are pushing the mayor to restore and increase funding for homeless students. “With record numbers of students living in shelter, now is the time for the city to increase its investment in support for students living in shelter, and certainly not the time to cut funding,” the leaders of Advocates for Children, an advocacy group often allied with de Blasio, wrote in a letter to the mayor last week, a copy of which was obtained by POLITICO New York. Kim Sweet and Randi Levine, the group's executive director and policy director, respectively, called on de Blasio to baseline the $10.3 million for guidance counselors and add another $7.3 million to the executive budget to fund a total of 100 counselors for schools with high homeless populations. Read article

02.28.2017 | Chalkbeat New York | Maggie Moroff, special education policy coordinator at Advocates for Children, said the legislation should be expanded to track where students with accessibility needs apply and are accepted to schools. She cited a Department of Justice finding that 83 percent of city elementary schools are not fully accessible to students with mobility limitations. The city is already working to provide more information about accessibility at high schools, where only 13 percent of buildings are fully accessible. “It is vital that you ensure there are accessible school options across the city for students, teachers and family members with mobility, hearing and vision needs,” she said in a prepared statement. Read article

02.27.2017 | Chalkbeat New York | The programs are in keeping with Mayor Bill de Blasio’s push for less punitive approaches to school discipline, including “restorative” justice, and a plan to significantly reduce suspensions for the city’s youngest students. But some advocates said the new measures are too incremental and unlikely to make a significant dent in the number of students — disproportionately black or Hispanic — who are slapped with criminal offenses at school. “What the city is proposing to do is really minimal,” said Dawn Yuster, a student justice expert at Advocates for Children. She pointed out that school safety agents — who are posted in schools but employed by the NYPD — still have discretion to issue criminal summonses for what amount to schoolyard fights or minor drug violations, even in schools with the warning card program. Even doubling the number of schools covered by the policy would only cover a fraction of the city’s high school students, Yuster added. “If they wanted to make a big change, there’s no reason why they couldn’t expand the program to all schools.” Read article

02.24.2017 | Chalkbeat New York | According to 2016 data, the most recent available, just 13 percent of district and charter schools that serve high school grades are fully accessible. About 62 percent are partially accessible, and 25 percent are considered inaccessible. Making accessibility data public could help change those numbers, said Maggie Moroff, a disability policy expert at Advocates for Children who has pushed for greater transparency and praised the initiative. “Once it’s out there, there’s so much more self-advocacy a parent can do,” Moroff said. “Then they can make requests about specific accommodations.”

Greater transparency is just one step in the process. Moroff hopes the city will consider taking students’ physical disabilities into account during the admissions process so that academically qualified students get preference for accessible schools. Once students arrive, she added, they must be welcomed by the school community. “There needs to be much more work to hold the schools accountable to actually welcoming those students,” Moroff said. “It has to go hand in hand with making renovations and making accommodations.” Read article

02.23.2017 | Chalkbeat New York | A student’s high school placement is directly connected to whether or not they will graduate on time, advocates said. When newly arrived immigrants enter the country, they have to move quickly to pass the state’s required exit exams in time for graduation — and they need all the support they can get, advocates said. Twenty-seven percent of English learners in New York City drop out before graduating, according to state data. “If a student is not set up in the right placement from the start, the likelihood of being able to stay engaged, be on track for graduation and not drop out, all of that will be impacted,” said Abja Midha, a project director at Advocates for Children. “We really think the high school enrollment piece is a really critical point.” Read article