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Gabriel needed an appropriate placement and special education services for kindergarten.

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08.25.2016 | The first day of school is Thursday, September 8! In preparation, we've updated our back-to-school fact sheet for families of students with disabilities, which covers concerns that typically come up at this time of year, such as what to do if a child does not yet have a school assignment or the school assigned says they cannot serve the child’s needs; how to find an accessible school; and arranging for specialized transportation. View the fact sheet in English [PDF] and Spanish [PDF]. 

If you have additional questions or need assistance, please call AFC’s Education Helpline: (866) 427-6033, Monday—Thursday, 10am—4pm.

08.08.2016 | This evening, AFC is testifying at the DOE’s hearing on proposed changes to the Discipline Code. Our testimony focuses on the proposals to ban suspensions for students in kindergarten through second grade, require schools to document supports and interventions used, and expand the options for the length of suspensions. View testimony [PDF].

07.21.2016 | Today, the City announced its intention to implement the recommendation of the Mayoral Leadership Team on School Climate and Discipline to modify the Department of Education’s (DOE’s) discipline code to end suspensions for students in kindergarten through second grade and increase support for positive behavior interventions in schools.  Advocates for Children of New York staunchly supports the elimination of suspensions for these students and the use of a developmentally sound approach to address the behavior of young children instead. 

“Suspending a young child from school does nothing to teach social-emotional skills or change the child’s behavior when the child returns, and removing children from the classroom causes them to fall behind in key academic skills, such as learning to read. The City should act quickly to implement the changes recommended,” said Kim Sweet, the Executive Director of Advocates for Children of New York.  

As NYPD data also released today reveals, our schools have become safer: crime is down, fewer students are arrested, and most police encounters with students are for low-level crimes and noncriminal offenses.  Despite these improvements, new data reported pursuant to Student Safety Act amendments passed last year illustrates the continued need for the City to embark on a long overdue strategic plan to address significant racial disparities in students arrested, handcuffed, and issued summonses, as well as in students suspended.  

The Leadership Team’s report contains a number of additional recommendations that should be implemented, including:  

  • Launching a pilot program providing a comprehensive mental health service continuum in 20 high-needs schools, including using hospital-based clinics and providing whole-school Collaborative Problem Solving training to support these schools, and  
  • Revising the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the New York City Police Department (NYPD) and the DOE to decriminalize student misbehavior by clearly delineating the roles of school administrators and the NYPD, specifying minor offenses that will not result in student arrest or receipt of a summons, and creating an arrest diversion program for lower-level crimes. 

Says Dawn Yuster, Director of AFC’s School Justice Project, “There are a lot of excellent ideas in this report.  Now the City needs to make them happen.”

View full statement [PDF]

06.07.2016 | A coalition of national, statewide and local organizations today urged passage of A.8396, the Judge Judith S. Kaye Safe and Supportive School Act, New York legislation aimed at promoting positive school climates and reducing racial discipline disparities. Their remarks come on the heels of new national data released by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Eights (OCR) showing persistent racial disparities in student suspensions and expulsions. 

“The U.S. Department of Education data is clear that Black girls are especially vulnerable to racially-biased discipline and school policing, even as young learners. While Black girls make up only 20 percent of preschool enrollment, they are half of preschool girls who receive out-of-school suspensions. When we see such racial disparities in these early years, we know that new approaches are needed,” said Kim Sweet, Executive Director of Advocates for Children of New York. “The findings confirm that we must support reforms included in the Safe and Supportive Schools Act and continue to work on behalf of children who are at greatest risk for school-based discrimination due to their race.”

View full statement from the New York Coalition for Safe & Supportive Schools [PDF]

05.24.2016 | The New York Bar Foundation recently presented a grant of $6,200 to Advocates for Children of New York. The grant will be used to support their Assistance for Children with Disabilities program. “The support of the New York Bar Foundation will help make it possible for us to provide legal services to low-income students and families who have nowhere else to turn,” states Kim Sweet, executive director of Advocates for Children.  The goal for all of AFC’s work is that children succeed in schools and programs that provide appropriate levels of challenge and support.

View press release from the New York Bar Foundation [PDF]

05.24.2016 | Today, AFC is testifying about the city budget before the City Council Committee on Finance, asking that the final budget include increased funding for DOE social workers for students living in shelters and for restorative justice programs. View testimony [PDF]

05.19.2016 | As the New York State Senate Education Committee holds a hearing today on mayoral control of New York City schools, Kim Sweet, Executive Director of Advocates for Children of New York (AFC), released the following statement supporting a long-term extension of mayoral control: 

As a watchdog agency working to protect the rights of students, we know that there is substantial room for improvement in our public schools. But we also know that mayoral control has led to an infusion of attention and resources that has produced results for our City’s students and schools. Having monitored the City’s school system before and after mayoral control went into effect, we strongly support a long-term extension of mayoral control.

By various indicators, we have seen steady improvement in student outcomes under mayoral control. We have seen these gains for the student population as a whole as well as for subgroups of students such as students with disabilities. We have also seen mayoral initiatives, like Pre-K for All and the expansion of community schools, which would not have been possible without the ability to marshal the resources of various city agencies.

We have not agreed with every decision that Mayor Bloomberg or Mayor de Blasio has made about our City’s schools. But we agree that the mayor, as the City’s top elected leader, should be responsible for the education of the City’s students.

The question about mayoral control should focus not on who is mayor but on how we build an education system that best serves children. Mayoral control in New York City has a track record of producing results for students. We urge the State Legislature to approve a long-term extension of mayoral control.

View press statement [PDF]
View testimony submitted to the New York State Senate Education Committee [PDF]

04.19.2016 | Today, AFC is testifying before the New York City Council Committees on Education and Mental Health, Developmental Disability, Alcoholism, Substance Abuse and Disability Services about the need to make certain that our public schools are prepared to provide all students, including those with dyslexia and other disabilities, with appropriate, evidence-based literacy instruction. View our full testimony [PDF]

03.31.2016 | In response to today’s release of data pursuant to the Student Safety Act, Kim Sweet, Executive Director of Advocates for Children of New York (AFC), released the following statement: 

The continued decline in suspensions is good news for the New York City public schools and the students they serve.  In an increasing number of schools, educators are working with students and families to implement evidence-based strategies, like restorative practices and collaborative problem solving, that reduce the need for suspensions without compromising safety. We urge the Mayor and the Chancellor of the Department of Education to fund further expansion of these strategies across the city.

The data released today also discloses how often students are transported from schools to hospitals by Emergency Medical Services staff for emotional or psychological reasons.  The City Council recently amended the Student Safety Act to require release of this information.  This increase in transparency is welcome, as for decades, we have seen school staff call EMS because they don’t have more appropriate strategies or support to help them de-escalate crises and address their students’ emotional needs.  This first batch of data on EMS referrals supports the call for expanding crisis intervention support for school staff and mental health services for students in our city’s schools.

View statement as a pdf

03.31.2016 | On Thursday, April 14, AFC's Junior Board and NYU Law School's Education Law and Policy Society will hold a panel on technology and education equity. The event is free, but please register in advance if you plan on attending. 

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