Under the New York Department of Education’s revised disciplinary code, public-school students can no longer be suspended for one-time, low-level infractions such as being late for school, talking back to teachers or carrying prohibited items like smartphones, the New York Times reports.
In addition, children in kindergarten through third grade who commit mid-level infractions like pushing and shoving or writing graffiti on school property can now only be suspended for up to five days, down from 10, according to the Times’ SchoolBook blog.
Students can still face alternative punishments, such as being excluded from extracurricular activities or being sent to the principal’s office. Repeat low-level offenses can also result in suspensions in limited instances.
Younger students can face longer suspensions for more serious infractions like bullying, violent fights or starting fires. These suspensions can last for as many as 90 days, or a year if a firearm is involved. Students guilty of extreme violations can also be transferred to a school that specializes in children with disciplinary problems. Rules governing expulsion have remained the same, and only apply to students who are at least 17 years of age.
The revised code encourages teachers to attempt counseling, such as holding a conference with the child and his or her parents, before resorting to discipline. Lunchtime detentions may also be handed out, the New York Daily News reports.
According to the Times, the change was made at the urging of City Council members and advocates like the New York Civil Liberties Union, who claimed suspensions were unnecessarily harsh and kept students out of school for insufficient reasons.
“The overarching message is that students belong in the classroom,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “This change in the disciplinary code would result in more students in the classroom, more often, and teachers having the mandate to discipline students with positive educational approaches.”
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