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Why Were 4- and 5-Year-Olds Suspended From NYC Schools Last Year?

Dozens of four and five year-olds were suspended from New York City schools last year

Chancellor Dennis Walcott

New York City schools have a serious problem on their hands… Last year, dozens of four- and five-year-old students were suspended. Why were children who have practically just left their mother’s womb facing steep punishment from their school?

Data released on Friday shows that nine city elementary schools issued at least 10 suspensions to 4- and 5-year-olds last school year. Among them was Public School 189 in Manhattan, which handed out a stunning 19 suspensions to 4-year-olds. Josephine Aspha, a parent whose child is a second grader at PS 189, is disappointed in the number of suspensions issued to toddlers. “That is so unfair for those kids,” she said, noting she wished the school had a proper way of intervening to correct kids’ behavior.

New York City Civil Liberties Union executive director Donna Lieberman said of the data: “These are statistics that have failure written all over them.” She continued: “It’s hard to fathom any reason why nineteen 4-year-olds would be suspended from school by a competent educational system.” Lieberman noted the city’s suspension policies hit minority and special education students hardest.

The statistics showed that minorities and kids with special needs were more often the targets of discipline. Black kids served 53% of the suspensions while they represent just 28% of the city’s students. In total, 69% of suspensions went to boys, though they make up 51% of the student populations.In addition, students with disabilities make up just 12% of the student population but serve 32% of the suspensions. Citywide, suspensions in all the grades were down slightly last year over the previous year, dropping from 73,441 to 69,643.

Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said schools have reduced suspensions last year by addressing “incidents before they escalate” but added the city is still looking at the disparities among different racial and ethnic groups. “This is a national problem, and in our schools, we have implemented a pilot as part of the Young Men’s Initiative to reinforce positive behavior through coaching and problem solving,” he said. “We have more work to do but we are headed in the right direction.”


53 Responses to Why Were 4- and 5-Year-Olds Suspended From NYC Schools Last Year?

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  5. True Diva

    February 4, 2013 at 5:36 am

    In addition to what has been so eloquently stated by Marilyn, Black children are still being suspended at record high numbers. Special education students who dissplay behaviors that have been recorded in their Individual Education Plan (IEP), should not be suspended because of that, but they’re suspended anyway. These schools are not working to help improve/change their behavior; the principals are using suspension to get the problem children out of their schools. The children in middle school, are given 30, 60 and 90 day suspensions. The children are repeatedly suspended, up to 17 to 20 times per school year. I don’t care what Dennis Walcott says, he only taught kindergarten for a year or two. He has no vast educational experience. The New York City public school system is failing our children—and it’s not the teacher’s fault. The blame lies directly on Mayor Bloomberg, who has filled our schools with incompetent principals who came from his non-accredited Leadership Academy. Like Bloomberg, many of these principals have never been educators, or they taught for 1 to 2 years, went to the “fake” leadership academy and have become principals, virtually overnight. Meanwhile, teachers with years of experience, can not get positions as principals because Bloomberg has created a school system that is designed to fail.

  6. Marilyn

    January 13, 2013 at 11:57 pm

    Dennis Walcott is not an educator – he is a political puppet for Bloomberg to ensure the privatization of public school – he does not have a vested interest in Black/African children’s future – he does not have children. . .