Urban Youth Collaborative pushes for discipline reform in schools

Gazette photo by David Tregaskis
Assembly Woman Catherine Nolan, D-Queens, stood at UYC’s press conference in support of the Judge Judith S. Kaye Safe and Supportive Schools bill, which would reform disciplinary action in schools.


Members of the Urban Youth Collaborative (UYC) held a press conference in Albany to support legislation that would help alter disciplinary actions in schools and put an end to the school to prison pipeline.

The conference was held on Jan. 29 and was attended by UYC members. The group held posters with slogans such as “books not bars” and “safe, supportive and inclusive schools.” Each student wore a pin that said “counselors not cops.”

The Judge Judith S. Kaye Safe and Supportive Schools bill (S.3036/A.3837) proposes restorative justice rather than removal from schools. If passed, it would stop suspensions for K-3 students and limit the amount of days a student can be out of school to 20 days. Currently, students are allowed to miss 180 days.

The group, composed mainly of high school students, spoke from experience about the ineffectiveness of out of school suspensions.

Students who are suspended are often expected to keep track of work with little or no guidance. The more time off, the more likely they are to fall behind in curriculum. Studies from the Civil Rights Program at UCLA show that students who are more frequently suspended are more likely to drop out. Students of color and students with disabilities are more likely to be negatively affected by current discipline techniques.

The bill proposes alternative forms of discipline such as mediation and group exercises to help create a more supportive and safe environment. Restorative justice techniques help strengthen relationships within the classroom and create non judgemental atmospheres.

The charge behind the bill is led by high school students and groups such as the UYC. The UYC was founded in 2004 by students in the Bronx and Brooklyn. Run by students, the group brings together students from New York City to advocate for a student-first outlook.

Like the Judge Judith S. Kaye Safe and Supportive Schools bill, some of the UYC’s main goals are to put an end to the school to prison pipeline and make schools safer and inclusive for all.

UYC advocates stood alongside each other near the podium and took turns voicing their experiences in school. One student recalled receiving in-school suspension almost every day during the 2nd and 3rd grade. Other students stated the ineffectiveness of out of school suspensions and how easy it becomes to fall behind in curriculum.

Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan, D-Queens, who is sponsoring the bill, spoke about the importance of reforming the ways in which students are disciplined. It is the job of the schools to support students in regards to both their academic and socioeconomic life.

“It’s not about forgetting the consequences,” she said. “It’s about what’s the most effective.”