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Teachers Argue Recent Efforts to Reduce Suspensions in Schools Have Compromised School Safety

Teachers Argue Recent Efforts to Reduce Suspensions in Schools Have Compromised School Safety

Although recent efforts to implement restorative justice in New York City schools is appearing to be successful following a significant district-wide decline in suspensions, teachers and education officials are coming out to criticize the tools available to them in the event of unruly students.

According to the New York Daily News, prominent education leaders in the city are speaking out on the behalf of teachers who they say need more support to discipline students with measures alternative to what they are used to .

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has been focused on implementing restorative justice because he agrees with many other education experts who say that suspensions and expulsions negatively affect students who should be in the classroom learning; research has shown that such disciplinary measures are disproportionately given to minority students in a discriminatory fashion.

But the city’s educators argue that while good intention is there, they have not been provided with training nor services to deal with unruly students. It has been so bad, some say, that they believe it has compromised the culture of safety in schools.

Teachers union president Michael Mulgrew told the New York Daily News that the city’s schools are missing critical disciplinary tools that teachers need to control classrooms. In essence, he says that the state’s Department of Education has made suspensions a taboo tactic without offering alternative intervention strategies.

“[Carmen] Fariña and de Blasio have pushed this game to bring school violence numbers down but they are doing it at the risk to the safety of children and staff,” the New York City Parents Union president Mona Davids said to the New York Daily News.

The New York City school district is not the only one dealing with this issue. Across the country, teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District have expressed similar concerns.

In November of last year, The Los Angeles Times spoke with teachers and education officials in LAUSD who said the district’s new restorative justice approach left unsupported teachers feeling overly stressed out.

Union representative for Los Angeles Academy Middle School in South L.A. Art Lopez said in a letter obtained by the LA Times that teachers who have high numbers of students with discipline issues “are walking a fine line between extreme stress and a emotional meltdown.”

“Where is the justice for students who want to learn” without being distracted in unruly classrooms? Eighth-grade math teacher Michael Lam asked at a forum, the Times said.

The nation’s largest school districts serve as a model for schools across the country looking to implement changes. So far, the restorative justice model seems to be imperfect .

Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor

4/25/2016

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