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UFT backs greater disclosure of student discipline data

UFT Vice President for Career and Technical Education High Schools Sterling Roberson testified at a Dec. 16 Council hearing in favor of requiring the Department of Education to collect, analyze and report school discipline incidents in a more comprehensive fashion while maintaining student confidentiality.

The measures under discussion, in the form of amendments to the School Safety Act, would require the DOE and New York City Police Department to disaggregate the data by school as well as by race, gender and special education status. 

“Parents, school communities and the public at large deserve full disclosure on how discipline is handled at the school level,” he said.

The enhanced reporting requirements, he added, would help educators and administrators “better understand where discipline problems are developing a critical mass and where we can provide greater support and resources to students who are at risk.”

Roberson stressed that greater transparency on safety and student discipline was only one facet of the solution. He faulted the DOE for the decline in support and prevention services at the school level, which he described as “an evolution from more school-based wraparound services with trained professionals who specialize in these interventions to a band-aid approach where efforts rise after an incident or a crisis.”

In fact, he noted, the DOE has cut peer-mediation, gang-prevention and conflict-resolution programs in recent years. Substance-abuse and violence-prevention programs such as SPARK and the use of skilled substance abuse prevention and intervention specialists from the city’s Office of School and Youth Development have also been reduced, as have guidance counselors, education evaluators and special education supervisors.

 This is due in part to the struggling economy, Roberson said, but also to the DOE’s “unrelenting emphasis on test prep.”

“There was a time when school-based support teams managed a full complement of programs and interventions that were helping students cope with difficulties both at home and at school,” he said. “These amendments focus on the discipline side of the safety equation. Our schools also need increased support and resources on the program and prevention side.”

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