Bill proposed to reduce school suspensions that unfairly impact Black students

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Advocates in New York who believe that Black students are more harshly disciplined than their counterparts are calling for the passage of legislation to overhaul school disciplinary rules across the state.

According to the Daily News, Monday, a group of high school students and other civil rights advocates in Albany, New York, endorsed a bill that would essentially ban the suspension of students from kindergarten through third grade, prohibit faculty from sentencing students to suspensions for minor infractions, and limit long-term suspensions to a maximum of 20 days, instead of the 180 day maximum that is currently in place.

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The bill is meant to encourage those who work with minors to seek positive and nuanced alternatives to suspensions and would also require schools to create a code of conduct for students, employees and visitors that systemically promotes, “a safe and supportive learning environment.”

The bill has been around since 2015, but has never been brought to the floor of the Assembly or Senate for a vote. Monday’s event seeking to breath new life into it was the brainchild of The Urban Youth Collaborative. They believe that the data shows a clear disparity in how children of color are disciplined, with Black students in New York City being suspended at five times the rate of white students.

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“This data comes on the heels of President Trump’s Department of Education signaling a reversal of federal support for limiting racially discriminatory school discipline policies and closing thousands of civil rights investigations,” the Urban Youth Collaborative said in a statement. “The Safe and Supportive Schools Act will ensure New York State protects all students from President Trump’s ongoing efforts to dismantle protections for our most vulnerable children and families.”

Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan (D-Queens) and Sen. Velmanette Montgomery (D-Brooklyn), filed a sponsor memo for the bill and also provided findings that show students with disabilities and students of color are more likely to be disproportionately impacted by school discipline practices.

“Research has shown that students who are suspended or expelled at higher rates are more likely to drop out, less likely to graduate and more likely to be involved in the juvenile justice system,” wrote Nolan and Montgomery.