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UFT, city agree on safety and discipline changes

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UFT President Michael Mulgrew speaks about the agreement while Mayor Bill de Blasio looks on.
Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office

UFT President Michael Mulgrew speaks about the agreement while Mayor Bill de Blasio looks on.

An agreement on school safety and discipline announced on June 20 by the city and the United Federation of Teachers puts in place more early-intervention strategies while clarifying the processes that kick in when there is an incident.

The agreement provides more clinical support for students struggling with behavior issues, ensures that suspensions are focused on the most serious cases of student infractions, and for the first time codifies the process by which teachers can have students removed from their classroom, according to Mayor Bill de Blasio, Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza and UFT President Michael Mulgrew.

“The time has come to stop reacting, to stop having to scramble to help students after the fact,” said Mulgrew. “We need a proactive approach, and hopefully this is the start of getting the right resources to our educators so we can change the school climate for all students and staff.”

Each school will be required to have and enact a plan of progressive student discipline and classroom removals, along with required training for the entire staff.

De Blasio, First Lady Chirlane McCray and Carranza announced that all students will have access to social-emotional learning and restorative justice practices to help school communities change school culture and climate.

“I am particularly pleased that what we have said for years is finally being recognized — educators need more access to trained personnel who can immediately deal with students in crisis,” Mulgrew said.

To that end, the agreement includes the hiring of 85 clinical social workers to provide earlier intervention, a resource, Mulgrew said, that “we have sorely needed.”

The Department of Education will provide all elementary schools with access to a social-emotional learning curriculum in partnership with the National University System’s Sanford Harmony program. According to school officials, districts that have used Sanford Harmony have found that students display more empathy and develop stronger relationships with their peers.

The agreement also obliges the DOE to build restorative justice practices into all middle and high schools, geared at providing students with the tools they need to name their emotions, overcome conflicts and repair relationships.

Additionally, 50 city middle schools will take part in the UFT’s Positive Learning Collaborative, a program designed to replace punitive, after-the-fact discipline with proactive, problem-solving strategies. The schools will receive training in Therapeutic Crisis Intervention for Schools and additional support in an area of need.

A smaller cadre of schools will become partner schools with the Positive Learning Collaborative. In addition to therapeutic crisis training, these schools will receive on-site coaching, support to implement community circles and access to a behavior specialist to guide them in the process.

A revised Memorandum of Understanding between the DOE and the NYPD, announced on the same day by the mayor and the schools chancellor, clarifies which student infractions should result in arrests or summonses and which should be dealt with by school safety agents and the school administration.

Carranza said the DOE would seek to reduce the number and length of suspensions in most cases. The exceptions would be in cases of serious or violent incidents, which will continue to receive 20 or more days.

NY Teacher