New York City schools have a serious problem on their hands… Last year, dozens of four- and five-year-old students were suspended. Why were children who have practically just left their mother’s womb facing steep punishment from their school?
Data released on Friday shows that nine city elementary schools issued at least 10 suspensions to 4- and 5-year-olds last school year. Among them was Public School 189 in Manhattan, which handed out a stunning 19 suspensions to 4-year-olds. Josephine Aspha, a parent whose child is a second grader at PS 189, is disappointed in the number of suspensions issued to toddlers. “That is so unfair for those kids,” she said, noting she wished the school had a proper way of intervening to correct kids’ behavior.
New York City Civil Liberties Union executive director Donna Lieberman said of the data: “These are statistics that have failure written all over them.” She continued: “It’s hard to fathom any reason why nineteen 4-year-olds would be suspended from school by a competent educational system.” Lieberman noted the city’s suspension policies hit minority and special education students hardest.
The statistics showed that minorities and kids with special needs were more often the targets of discipline. Black kids served 53% of the suspensions while they represent just 28% of the city’s students. In total, 69% of suspensions went to boys, though they make up 51% of the student populations.In addition, students with disabilities make up just 12% of the student population but serve 32% of the suspensions. Citywide, suspensions in all the grades were down slightly last year over the previous year, dropping from 73,441 to 69,643.
Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said schools have reduced suspensions last year by addressing “incidents before they escalate” but added the city is still looking at the disparities among different racial and ethnic groups. “This is a national problem, and in our schools, we have implemented a pilot as part of the Young Men’s Initiative to reinforce positive behavior through coaching and problem solving,” he said. “We have more work to do but we are headed in the right direction.”