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09.01.2021 | Today, AFC testified before the New York City Council Committee on Education on the City's plan to hire 250 new School Safety Agents (“SSAs”), rather than invest in the social-emotional and mental health supports our students need so profoundly at this point in time. As students return to school buildings to learn in person, it is more critical than ever that the DOE provide students with safe, supportive, healing-centered school environments that have comprehensive mental health and social-emotional support that promotes well-being and equity for all students and school staff. 

Read our testimony [PDF]

08.09.2021 | Today, Advocates for Children of New York is joined more than 100 organizations in sending a letter urging the Governor to sign into law A. 8013 (Benedetto) / S. 6516-A (Mannion), a bill passed unanimously by the Senate and Assembly to ensure that preschool special education programs, as well as state-approved non-public schools for school-age students with significant disabilities, receive the same increase in payment rates as school districts. Read the letter [PDF]

06.25.2021 | Today, Advocates for Children of New York joined 25 organizations to urge the DOE to hire 150 shelter-based Community Coordinators to help students living in shelter reconnect with school and participate in supplemental programming offered by the DOE.  With the DOE poised to receive tens of millions of dollars in COVID-19 federal relief funding specifically allocated to support students experiencing homelessness, the DOE has an opportunity to have a new corps of qualified, trained professionals on the ground in the City’s shelters who can listen to concerns of families, help them navigate the DOE’s complex school system, address barriers to school attendance, and support them on issues ranging from transportation to enrollment and technology to special education. Read the letter [PDF]

 

06.23.2021 | Today, AFC joined 90+ organizations to call on Mayor de Blasio to address the shortage of preschool special education classes and provide salary parity to teachers of preschool special education classes at community-based organizations (CBOs) this year. Pre-K will never be “for all” until the City ensures a preschool special education class seat for every child who needs one. Recently released data show that, as of the end of the 2019-2020 school year, 1,215 New York City preschoolers were waiting for seats in legally mandated preschool special education classes in violation of their legal rights. Read the letter [PDF]

first page of data brief06.03.2021 | Today, Advocates for Children of New York (AFC) released a new data brief, Police Response to Students in Emotional Crisis: A Call for Comprehensive Mental Health and Social-Emotional Support for Students in Police-Free Schools [PDF], exploring data on police response to more than 12,000 incidents between July 2016 and June 2020 involving a student in emotional distress removed from class and transported to the hospital for psychological evaluation—what the New York Police Department (NYPD) terms a “child in crisis” intervention. Mirroring broader trends in policing, a disproportionate share of these interventions involved Black students, students attending New York City Department of Education (DOE) District 75 special education schools, and students attending schools located in low-income communities of color. The brief calls on the City to end the criminalization of students in emotional crisis by eliminating police from schools and invest in a comprehensive, integrated system of school-wide, multi-tiered behavioral and mental health supports and services that will promote well-being and equity for all students and school staff.

The new brief is an update to AFC’s November 2017 report, Children in Crisis, which examined NYPD data on such interventions during the 2016-17 school year, the first full year for which data were publicly available pursuant to the Student Safety Act. In subsequent years, the number of child in crisis interventions only increased: during the first three quarters of the 2019-20 school year—the months prior to the closure of school buildings due to COVID-19—the number of child in crisis interventions was approximately 24% higher than the equivalent time period in 2016-17. Overall, almost half of all interventions during the past four school years involved children between the ages of 4 and 12, and in 297 instances, the NYPD handcuffed a student who was under the age of 13, including three 5-year-olds, seven 6-year-olds, and 23 7-year-olds.

Our analysis finds that Black students—particularly Black boys—and students with disabilities attending District 75 special education schools are dramatically over-represented in the population of students for whom an emotional crisis at school leads to an interaction with the police and removal to the hospital emergency room, as well as those handcuffed during these incidents. Between July 2018 and March 2020:

  • More than a quarter (26.7%) of child in crisis interventions involved Black boys, who were only 13% of the public school population; Black girls comprised 12.4% of overall enrollment but 20.1% of those subject to child in crisis interventions. 
  • More than one out of every three (36.7%) students handcuffed while in emotional crisis was a Black boy; Black girls subject to these interventions were handcuffed at twice the rate of White girls. 
  • Of the children between the ages of 4 and 12 who experienced a child in crisis intervention during the 2018-19 and 2019-20 school years, more than half (51.8%) were Black. 
  • At least 9.1% of all child in crisis interventions occurred in District 75 schools, even though District 75 enrolled only 2.3% of New York City students. More than one out of every five (21.3%) students handcuffed while in crisis was a student with a disability in District 75.

The data also show that law enforcement intervened in student mental health crises at significantly higher rates, relative to total enrollment, at schools in the Bronx, central Brooklyn, parts of midtown Manhattan, and southeast Queens, as compared to schools elsewhere in the five boroughs. Overall, nearly a third (32.7%) of all child in crisis interventions between July 2016 and June 2020 occurred in just ten of the City’s 77 police precincts—eight in the Bronx, along with the precincts encompassing Brownsville and East New York in Brooklyn—even though schools located in those precincts enrolled less than a fifth of City students. Together, just two Bronx precincts—the 42nd and the 48th, which cover Morrisania, East Tremont, Belmont, and West Farms—handcuffed more children between the ages of 5 and 12 than all sixteen precincts in Queens combined.

“Students in emotional crisis need emotional support; they don’t need to be criminalized and handcuffed,” said Kim Sweet, AFC’s Executive Director. “As a city, we need to start treating all students as we want our own children to be treated.”

“Police responses are extremely traumatic for the student, their peers, and all school staff who witness the police intervention,” said Jennifer Finn, a special education teacher and member of Teachers Unite. “It is impossible to justify the use of law enforcement when a student needs emotional and behavioral support.”

The brief makes a number of recommendations for transforming the City’s response to children in emotional crisis and building the DOE’s capacity to provide effective behavioral and mental health supports to students. Among other recommendations detailed in the report, the City should:

  • Stop calling 911, the police, or Emergency Medical Services (EMS) to take students to the hospital emergency room when medically unnecessary; 
  • Enact Intro 2188, a bill pending in the City Council that would significantly curtail the NYPD’s ability to handcuff students in emotional crisis; 
  • Hire more clinically-trained mental health staff in schools or in organizations partnered with schools; 
  • Include $118 million in the Fiscal Year 22 budget to fund the full implementation of restorative practices; 
  • Invest $15 million in the Fiscal Year 22 budget for an integrated system of targeted and intensive supports and services for students with significant mental health needs, such as through the Mental Health Continuum recommended by the Mayor’s Leadership Team on School Climate and Discipline, the City Council, and the Comptroller; 
  • Staff the Borough Offices and District 75 with additional behavior specialists to provide direct support to schools struggling to address student behavior; and 
  • Expand inclusive school program options for students with emotional, behavioral, or mental health disabilities. 

“As a parent of a student with a disability and a Council Member in the Bronx, I am horrified by the idea that police are handcuffing students when they are in emotional crisis and that this is disproportionately impacting students with disabilities, Black children, and students in the Bronx,” said City Council Member Diana Ayala. “I have heard directly from impacted parents about how traumatic this experience is for their children. We must immediately pass Int. 2188, which outlines steps police must take before intervening when a student is in crisis and significantly limits their ability to handcuff these children.”

“Given the trauma that so many students have experienced over the past year and a half, it is more critical than ever that the DOE invest in public health alternatives to police interventions and 911 calls,” said Dawn Yuster, Director of AFC’s School Justice Project. “None of us would head to a police precinct for mental health care for ourselves or our children—nor should we rely on police to address children’s emotional needs at school.”

Read the data brief [PDF]
View the news release as a PDF


06.02.2021 | Today, Advocates for Children of New York (AFC) joined 35 child welfare and education organizations to call on Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Porter to invest in support for students in foster care. We're aksing that they provide funding in the Fiscal Year 2022 budget to create a DOE office focused full-time on students in foster care and to guarantee school bus or other door-to-door transportation for students in foster care who need it to maintain school stability. 

Read the sign-on letter [PDF]

Spring 2021 | AFC has outlined our priorities for education investments we are recommending for the final NYC budget as the City decides how to use the largest one-time federal investment in education in our nation’s history.  Learn more about our COVID-19 Education Recovery Plan and NYC budget priorities

On May 25, 2021, we testified [PDF] before the City Council on the Mayor’s budget proposal, outlining our priorities for an ambitious education initiative to direct the largest one-time federal investment in education in our nation’s history. Click on the links below to learn more about each of AFC's advocacy priorities [PDF] for the Fiscal Year 2022 New York City budget. 

Education Budget Priorities for NYC Fiscal Year 2022 Budget [PDF]
The Fiscal Year 2022 Executive Budget includes some important education investments, including 100% Fair Student Funding for all schools. In addition, we are encouraged to see investments in areas such as special education services, preschool special education, and social workers. However, the Executive Budget is short on details in some areas and provides inadequate funding levels to meet the need in other areas. Based on our work on the ground partnering with individual families to help their children succeed in school, we have laid out our recommendations for education investments we would like to see in the final NYC budget.

COVID-19 Education Recovery [PDF
Over the past year, the pandemic has caused unprecedented disruption to the education of children and youth—and the students hit hardest have been those who were already struggling in school or marginalized on the basis of race, poverty, disability, immigration status, English proficiency, homelessness, or involvement in the child welfare or juvenile or criminal justice systems. New York City needs an ambitious Education Recovery Plan to pave the way to hope and opportunity for this generation of students. Such a plan must invest resources in academic support, mental health support, and outreach and engagement. It must be targeted to assist students disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, including the provision of specialized instruction and support where needed. With the federal government having approved the largest one-time investment in education in our nation’s history, planning must happen now if we are to make the best use of the resources coming our way and ensure an effective transition back into the classroom for hundreds of thousands of students. This document contains our recommendations for steps the City should take.

Teach Every Student to Read [PDF
One of the most fundamental responsibilities of schools is to teach children how to read, and there is a mountain of scientific research on how to do so effectively. Yet far too many NYC students struggle to become skilled readers—less than half of third through eighth graders, and only 36% of Black and Hispanic students and 16% of students with disabilities in grades 3–8, were reading proficiently in 2019—while far too many schools continue to use ineffective curricula that are not aligned with the science, and far too many teachers have never been trained in evidence-based practice. As the City plans for education recovery, it must invest in a comprehensive effort to revamp the way it provides reading instruction to all students and targeted interventions to students who need extra support, including those in middle and high school.

Mental Health Supports for Students in Police-Free Schools [PDF
The COVID-19 pandemic has created and exacerbated social-emotional challenges for all members of the school community. While the City has committed to addressing student mental health, there is not sufficient additional funding directed towards their needs. The current proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2022 contains merely a $35 million increase for Social-Emotional Learning, leaving schools to find a way to provide additional services for students without the funding to pay for them. It is more urgent than ever that the City make students’ mental health and well-being a top priority. The City must re-allocate the $450 million NYPD budget for school policing to support the mental health and social-emotional needs of NYC’s students by funding direct services to support students' social-emotional needs; targeted intensive mental health supports for students; and the expansion and full implementation of school-wide restorative justice practices.

Meet the Need for Preschool Special Education Class Seats [PDF
By early March 2020, hundreds of NYC students were already sitting at home—not because of the pandemic, but because the City did not have enough seats in preschool special education classes. As a result, children with disabilities who had a legal right to a preschool special education class missed a critical opportunity for intervention during the window of time when these services can have the greatest impact. The City must ensure there is a preschool special class seat for every child who requires one, either by opening more DOE-run classes or by ensuring CBOs do so, and should extend salary parity to teachers of CBO preschool special classes so they may continue to support preschoolers with disabilities.

Support Students in Foster Care [PDF
Approximately 6,000 New York City students are in foster care each year. Students in foster care are disproportionately Black and come from NYC’s poorest communities. They are among the most likely to repeat a grade, be chronically absent, or leave high school without a diploma—and were impacted particularly hard by the closure of schools. To support students in foster care, the FY 2022 budget should include $5 million for bus service for students in foster care to increase school stability and $1.5 million to establish a small Department of Education office focused on supporting students in foster care.

05.25.2021 | Today, AFC testified before the City Council Committee on Finance on the Executive Budget, outlining our priorities for the historic influx of education funding from the state and federal governments. The City must use that funding effectively to provide needed academic and social-emotional support, incorporating outreach to students and families who have not yet re-engaged and specialized support for students who need it. Read our testimony [PDF]

04.16.2021 | Today, AFC is testifying before the City Council Committees on Education and General Welfare about the importance of having an intentional, targeted plan to support students in shelter as the City decides how to use its historic influx of education funding. Read our testimony [PDF]

first page of policy brief04.14.2021 | Today, Advocates for Children of New York (AFC) released a new policy brief highlighting disparities in school attendance during the pandemic and calling on the City to invest in an ambitious Education Recovery Plan that ensures all students can receive the academic and social-emotional support they need as they return to school.

As required by Local Law 10 of 2021, the NYC Department of Education (DOE) recently posted disaggregated attendance data for the month of January, marking the first time this school year that such data has been publicly available. The new brief summarizes key takeaways from the data, which provide a snapshot of student engagement during remote and blended learning and make clear that COVID-19 continues to have a disproportionate impact on marginalized student populations. While absenteeism has risen across the board this year, attendance rates are strikingly low among students living in homeless shelters, English Language Learners (ELLs), and students with disabilities, particularly at the high school level. In January 2021:

  • Students living in shelter had by far the lowest attendance rate of any student group: 75.7%, 14.1 percentage points lower than the rate for their permanently-housed peers. Ninth, tenth, and twelfth graders in shelter had attendance rates of just 64-67%, meaning they missed around one out of every three school days. 
  • ELLs and students with disabilities in grade 10, along with ELL twelfth graders—roughly 30,000 students in all—missed approximately one out of every four school days.
  • The attendance rate for ELL tenth graders was 10.1 percentage points lower than the 2018-19 attendance rate for ELLs in tenth grade, a notably larger decline than for non-ELLs; students with disabilities also saw larger drops in attendance, relative to the 2018-19 school year, than their peers without disabilities.

“The latest attendance data should spur City Hall and the DOE to action,” said Kim Sweet, AFC’s Executive Director. “Tens of thousands of students are still struggling to access an education because of the pandemic or are at risk of disconnecting from school entirely. With the DOE poised to get billions of dollars in COVID-19 relief funding, now is the time to put forward a comprehensive plan for an equitable recovery.”

AFC is recommending that the City’s plan for using its $7 billion in federal education COVID-19 funding include:

  • Investing in a corps of professionals, including bilingual staff and shelter-based staff, to focus on academic support, social-emotional support, and outreach to students and families. 
  • Engaging in intentional, proactive planning and outreach to ensure that the new Summer Rising program benefits all students—including students with disabilities, ELLs, and students experiencing homelessness—and provides the specialized supports these populations need.
  • Providing targeted academic and mental health supports; for example, one-on-one or small group tutoring, evidence-based literacy curricula, and staff such as social workers and behavior specialists who can provide direct services to students.
  • Investing in intensive, targeted outreach to re-engage students and families who are currently disconnected from school.
  • Providing make-up services and specialized support for students with disabilities and ELLs who did not receive their legally mandated instruction during the pandemic. 
  • Allowing 21-year-old students who would otherwise age out of school this year to attend Summer Rising and return to school next year so they can finish their diploma requirements or meet transition goals, particularly given the particularly low attendance rates for high school students. Just yesterday, the New York State Education Department issued a memo strongly encouraging districts to allow students aging out of school to attend summer school and, if needed, return to school for the 2021-2022 school year.


Read the policy brief [PDF]
View the press release as a PDF