08.05.2015 | Today AFC and the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC) jointly submitted comments in response to the New York City Department of Education's proposal to amend Chancellor's Regulation A-101 relating to student admissions, discharges, and transfers. We believe that there are opportunities to strengthen the proposed amendments in order to ensure that unaccompanied minors, undocumented youth, children and youth experiencing homelessness, and students with disabilities have meaningful access to a free public education. View comments [PDF]
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07.23.2015 | Today the office of Mayor Bill de Blasio released the Phase I report of the Mayoral Leadership Team on School Climate and Discipline. AFC advocated for the creation of the Leadership Team through our work on the School-Justice Partnership Task Force [PDF], and Executive Director Kim Sweet is serving on the Leadership Team and co-chairing the School Climate Working Group. The report's recommendations focus on reducing the use of suspensions, summonses, and arrests in schools by providing extensive training and ongoing support for school personnel, increasing the number of guidance counselors and social workers, improving mechanisms for coordination of services, and re-visiting some of the processes for evaluating schools. Read the report
06.30.2015 | In response to SUNY’s decision to stop authorizing new charter schools unless more funding is available for oversight, Kim Sweet, Executive Director of Advocates for Children of New York (AFC), issued the following statement:
We were glad to see the state’s major charter school authorizer speak out on the need for more oversight. The responsibility to authorize and monitor charter schools must be taken seriously. Charter school authorizers are tasked with making sure that charter schools meet requirements designed to protect students, including having discipline policies that follow the law. Yet, in February 2015, AFC released a report [PDF] finding that a significant number of New York City’s charter schools have discipline policies that fail to meet the legal requirements, leading to violations of students’ and parents’ civil rights. Charter school authorizers should fix these policies before increasing the number of charter schools they oversee.
06.29.2015 | AFC has a new fact sheet explaining the available appeal options for students whose Regents exam scores are keeping them from graduating from high school. Typically, students must pass five Regents exams, with scores of 65 or higher, in order to graduate. However, in certain cases, students can appeal their lower Regents exam scores and still graduate. View the fact sheet in English [PDF] or Spanish [PDF].
05.20.2015 | Advocates for Children of New York (AFC) and Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP (DPW) announced today a settlement with the New York City Department of Education (DOE) of a long-standing class action lawsuit on behalf of students with disabilities who are subject to disciplinary action while in New York City public schools. The lawsuit, originally filed in federal court in Brooklyn in 2002 and entitled E.B. v. New York City Department of Education, alleged that the DOE routinely denied students with disabilities required legal protections when they were suspended, excluded from class or school, or discharged involuntarily from school. The class action includes students with disabilities in New York City public schools from kindergarten through age 21. The Court set July 23, 2015 as the hearing date for final approval of the settlement.
The settlement notice is also available in Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, French, Haitian Creole, Korean, Russian, Spanish, and Urdu.
William (Bill) Jesinkey, the founding Executive Director of Advocates for Children and a leader in special education in New York City, died on December 25, 2014, at the age of 80. Bill was a brilliant and imaginative thinker and practical doer, who throughout his career was able to bring people and groups together and use untapped resources to create outstanding educational programs and services for the City’s neediest students.
Bill grew up in South Brooklyn, graduated from Manhattan College, and received a Masters degree from Teachers College, Columbia University. In 1960, he became a teacher in the City’s public school system, working in the “600 schools,” which at the time warehoused students—almost entirely Black and Latino boys—who were thrown out of other schools because of behavior problems. Bill found that most of the kids he worked with had emotional and other disabilities that interfered with their learning, but despite state and federal laws mandating and funding services for students with disabilities, they were not even considered for appropriate educational services.
In the early 1970s, based on his unique experience and knowledge, and using his leadership and organizing skills, Bill undertook a campaign to challenge what he saw as the denial of students’ educational rights. He brought together concerned groups and individuals to pool resources and obtain foundation and public funding to create the organization that became Advocates for Children. The mission of the organization—which guides AFC to this day—was to provide educational advocacy for individual kids and families and, based on issues emerging from its cases, work for systemic public education reform through research, organizing, administrative negotiation, and impact litigation. Bill’s influential “Lost Children” report, documenting the school system’s failure to provide appropriate educational services to the most disadvantaged students, was AFC’s first publication.
In parallel effort, Bill formed a partnership with a group of Christian Brothers in Queens who were working in parochial schools and were frustrated by their inability to help the young people in their community. Together they established the Martin de Porres School, an exemplary special education school for children and youth with emotional disabilities. The school remains in existence today, along with a related, independent program, the Martin de Porres Group Homes, which serves students who need residential care.
Bill was committed to public education, and once AFC and Martin de Porres were firmly established, he returned to the school system, working as a special educator. In 1983, he was appointed by the Chancellor of the City’s public schools as Superintendent of the Division of Special Education. As Superintendent, Bill worked tirelessly to create and provide quality educational programs and services to students with severe disabilities and to persuade principals across the system to consider these kids as their children.
After he retired from the school system, Bill continued to apply his leadership and knowledge to special and public education projects. He maintained his relationship with AFC throughout his life, and his selfless, passionate efforts resulted in quality educational services for thousands of students. He was an inspirational mentor who leaves a wonderful legacy in the countless teachers and advocates he influenced. Bill’s obituary card aptly quoted the statement of Francis of Assisi, “Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”
By Jane Stern, former Executive Director of AFC, and Richard Sexton, former AFC Board Member.
04.24.2015 | The ARISE Coalition (which is coordinated by Advocates for Children), is launching a campaign to improve literacy instruction for students with disabilities. See our Call to Action [PDF] (also available in Spanish [PDF] and Chinese [PDF]) for more details, and visit the Coalition's Change.org page to send a letter to Chancellor Fariña (a copy of the letter to the Chancellor is also available in Spanish [PDF]). On the evening of May 18, ARISE will be sponsoring a panel and parent speak out on literacy instruction for students with disabilities. Download a larger, PDF version of the flyer in English and Spanish.
04.14.2015 | Today AFC is testifying before the New York City Council Committee on Public Safety, the Committee on Education, and the Sub-Committee on Non-Public Schools regarding school climate and discipline. AFC supports the passage of both Introduction Number 730, amending the Student Safety Act, and Introduction Number 719, requiring the DOE to report on the ratio of School Safety Officers (“SSOs”) to Guidance Counselors in each school. View testimony [PDF]