For the second consecutive month, the UFT Delegate Assembly conducted an online survey during its meeting, this one about safety and discipline in their schools.
The survey was precipitated by changes to the student discipline code and the Chancellor’s Regulations on safety that have taken effect this school year.
UFT President Michael Mulgrew said the UFT has found that a zero-tolerance policy doesn’t work, but “now you have people who think you should never be able to suspend a child.” A no-suspension policy doesn’t work either, he said. “You have to have a comprehensive array of supports and services in place for challenging students.”
The survey confirmed the difficulties educators face. Sixty-two percent of the 414 chapter leaders and delegates who responded at the Jan. 6 meeting indicated their schools do not have sufficient staff to provide intervention services to help students who act out.
Nearly nine out of 10 respondents confirmed that their schools have a safety committee that meets monthly. However, only 48 percent said their schools have a de-escalation plan for dealing with a student who engages in behavior that poses a substantial risk of serious injury to the student or others. Nearly half of the delegates reported that there is no location inside their building where disruptive students can be safely isolated from others.
More than 80 percent of the respondents said students in their schools lost learning time as a result of other disruptive students. “We need to let somebody deal with the students who act out and help them, and let us get on with our work teaching everybody else,” Mulgrew said.
He said the online survey on integrated co-teaching classes that he conducted at the Dec. 18 DA served its purpose. “The chancellor was quite shocked,” Mulgrew said. “The information she received was different from ours.”
In light of the survey findings, he said, she agreed to create a document that spells out the special education rules and protocols that schools should be following.
“These are black-and-white issues,” Mulgrew said. “If someone from elsewhere in the building is out sick, you don’t pull out somebody from the ICT class. And if someone from the ICT class is out sick, you need to offer them a substitute.”
Mulgrew said many principals also need a refresher on the process for creating or amending a child’s Individualized Education Program. “It is not a process designed around what a principal thinks the budget is,” he said.
Mulgrew said the UFT would be meeting with the DOE to determine how to do teacher evaluations this year in light of the state ban on using grades 3–8 student test scores as part of the measures of student learning.
“Obviously, this had to get done quickly or it’s going to cause a lot of disruption in our system,” he said.
The union, he added, is also forming a task force on learning standards to ensure that the perspective of classroom educators continues to be heard as the state process for improving the state’s standards, curriculum and assessments moves forward. Since New York City schools have the largest number of English language learners and students with disabilities in the state, he said, UFT members should be the experts on what the standards should be for those students.
“We will be ready with a group that understands all of the different nuances of this work and be prepared to influence the process so that we get these things correct,” he said.
Mulgrew noted that the UFT’s campaign against Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s education proposals last year helped move education policy in the state in the right direction.
This year’s Albany legislative priorities, he said, would be a continued push for funding — particularly for the $2 billion in state aid owed to New York City schools — and legislation requiring charter schools to take their share of special-need students.
The delegates approved two resolutions: One affirming that the UFT stands with all victims of terrorist atrocities; and a second asking the U.S. Congress to give Medicare the power to set drug prices.