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first page of data brief11.02.2017 | Today, Advocates for Children of New York is releasing a brief analyzing data reported by the New York City Police Department (NYPD) showing that Black students are significantly over-represented in NYPD “child in crisis” interventions – incidents involving students in emotional distress sent to the hospital for psychological evaluation.  The new data brief, entitled Children in Crisis: Police Response to Students in Emotional Distress [PDF], scrutinizes data made public as part of 2015 amendments to the Student Safety Act that require reporting of enhanced information on police activities involving students in New York City public schools. The brief examines the demographic characteristics of students involved in child in crisis interventions, as well as the NYPD’s use of handcuffs on students as young as 5 years old during these incidents between July 2016 and June 2017.

Read the news release [PDF]
Read the data brief [PDF]

11.01.2017 |  Today, Kim Sweet, Executive Director of Advocates for Children of New York (AFC), issued the following statement in response to the New York City Department of Education’s annual report of information regarding students receiving special education services pursuant to Local Law 27: 

In reviewing the data just released by the DOE and comparing it to data for the past two years, we are struck by how little has changed. We are still seeing unacceptably low percentages of students receiving timely special education evaluations and IEP meetings—essentially the same as in prior years.

We are heartened to see that the percentage of students fully receiving special education services increased from 59 percent last year to 73 percent this year. However, the fact remains that over 25 percent of students with disabilities—nearly 50,000 students—are still going without all of the special education services they are entitled to receive under law.  

At a time when we see significant numbers of students with disabilities in NYC unable to meet curricular expectations, it is not surprising that the data continues to show considerable delays and deficits in special education evaluations, IEP meetings, and delivery of services. For example, while every student should leave school being able to read, only 10 percent of students with disabilities in NYC demonstrated proficiency in English Language Arts on last year’s third through eighth grade state exams. Unless and until the 193,361 students with disabilities in NYC schools receive the supports they require, those students will continue to lag behind their general education peers in critical academic areas.

The measure of a good school system is one that makes sure that all its students, including those with greater needs, receive the supports and services necessary for success. NYC has a lot of work to do.

View as PDF

10.30.17 | Today, AFC testified before the City Council Education Committee offering several recommendations to prevent and address bullying behavior, including expanding whole-school trainings that improve school climate, better utilizing existing data, better utilizing Field Support Center personnel, increasing awareness of anti-bullying resources, and improving reporting. View testimony [PDF]

10.11.2017 | Today, AFC is testifying before the City Council Committee on Education and Committee on General Welfare about support for students who are homeless. We are calling on the City to ensure there is high-level leadership on this issue, expand the number of DOE social workers for these students, and devote additional resources to address the significant challenges faced by the rising number of students who are homeless. View testimony [PDF]

10.10.2017 | Today, the New York State Technical and Education Assistance Center for Homeless Students (NYS-TEACHS), a project of Advocates for Children of New York, posted new data showing the number of students identified as homeless enrolled in New York City and New York State schools for the 2016-2017 school year. 

The data come from the New York State Education Department’s Student Information Repository System (SIRS) and show that during the 2016-2017 school year:

  • 148,215 students were identified as homeless by NYS school districts and charter schools.
  • This represents a 6% increase from the 2015-2016 school year. 
  • The New York City Department of Education identified 104,088 students experiencing homelessness.
  • Students in temporary housing now make up approximately 5% of the total student population in NYS and 10% of the student population in NYC.

“One out of every ten NYC students is homeless,” said Kim Sweet, AFC’s Executive Director. “The number of children and youth experiencing homelessness in NYC is twice the size of the entire Boston public school system.”

“We are pleased that Chancellor Carmen Fariña identified addressing the needs of students who are homeless as one of her priorities for this school year,” Sweet said.  “Over the past few years, the City has taken some positive steps, including offering yellow bus service to kindergarten through sixth grade students living in shelter, increasing pre-K enrollment among children living in shelter, and hiring more than 30 Department of Education social workers for schools with high populations of students living in shelter.  Now, we urge the City to expand the number of DOE social workers for students in temporary housing, ensure high-level leadership on this issue, and devote the resources needed to address the significant challenges faced by the rising number of students who are homeless.”

View news release as a PDF

report cover09.29.2017 | Today, Advocates for Children of New York and SCO Family of Services, a social services provider, announced the launch of a Parent Toolkit, an easy to use guide that provides recommendations and resources to enhance parent involvement in their child’s education while in foster care.  The Toolkit helps parents navigate the education system while embracing the important role they play in their children’s academic success and achievements.  

“Parent engagement can have a dramatic impact on a child’s education, and the recommendations contained in the report demonstrate that more can be done to fully engage parents in their children’s education while in foster care,” remarked Kim Sweet, Executive Director of Advocates for Children. “These recommendations provide a road map for involving parents who have often felt excluded and focus on shared education planning and decision-making, with parents serving as both advocates for their children and partners with schools and foster care agencies.”

The Toolkit accompanies a jointly produced report, Empowering Parents So Children Succeed, and is the product of a three-year partnership between Advocates for Children and SCO Family of Services. 

View the press release [PDF]
View the report [PDF]

Toolkit

Parent Engagement Workflow [PDF]

Parent Education Bill of Rights [PDF]
(also available in Spanish)

Talking to Your Child about School [PDF
(also available in Spanish)

Translation and Interpretation Services Fact Sheet [PDF
(also available in ArabicBengaliChineseFrenchHaitian CreoleKoreanRussianSpanishUrdu)

School Template Letter [Word file]

School Contacts Sheet [PDF
(also available in Spanish)

IEP Information Sheet [PDF

Parent-Teacher Conferences Tip Sheet [PDF
(also available in Spanish)

Advocates for Children’s Guide to Special Education [PDF
(also available in ArabicBengali, ChineseSpanish)

Online Tools for Locating Community-Based Resources [PDF

Homework Tip Sheet [PDF
(also available in Spanish)

Advocates for Children’s Education Helpline Flyer [PDF
(also available in Spanish)

Every student in New York City has the right to attend public school, regardless of immigration status. Following recent immigration-related activities by the federal government, the New York City Department of Education (DOE) issued several letters to families reiterating this commitment. The DOE has also provided additional guidance for principals on responding to any requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for access to schools or student records. 

Families and school staff should know that: 

  • School staff cannot ask students or parents about immigration status. Even if a student or his/her parents are undocumented, the student still has the right to receive all school services, including special education supports and services. 
     
  • ICE officers are not permitted to enter schools, except when absolutely required by law (they must have a judicial warrant in all but rare emergency circumstances). If an ICE officer goes to a school for immigration enforcement purposes, he/she must wait outside of the building while the principal consults with DOE lawyers. 
     
  • The DOE will not release information from student records to immigration officers unless absolutely required by law. Undocumented parents and students have all the same rights under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) as do other families. 
     
  • Families should update school records (the "Blue Card") to ensure that there is up-to-date contact information on file for trusted adults who can pick up a child from school, in the event that the primary parent/guardian is detained or deported.
     

It also is important to note that federal policy [PDF] currently limits immigration enforcement actions at sensitive locations, which include schools, hospitals, and places of worship.

Translations of the DOE’s letter and the complete guidance document, along with additional resources on immigration enforcement, are available at http://schools.nyc.gov/SupportingAllStudents/.

Additional Resources

State Guidance

New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia recently released new guidance reminding school districts of their duty to uphold the rights of immigrant students as well as guidance on combatting harassment and discrimination. These documents have been translated into 20 languages (Arabic, Bengali, Burmese, Chinese, French, Fulani, Haitian Creole, Japanese, Karen, Khmer, Nepali, Portuguese, Punjabi, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Urdu, Uzbek, Vietnamese, and Wolof). 

AFC Publications

  • AFC’s Know Your Rights guidebook provides information on the rights of immigrant students and families in the New York City public schools; it’s available in Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, English, French, Haitian Creole, Korean, Russian, Spanish, and Urdu [PDF]. See pages 20-21 of the guide for a list of organizations which provide free or low-cost immigration assistance. Some of these organizations are conducting free legal clinics around the city; contact them directly for more information.
     
  • Advocates for Children also has a fact sheet on bullying, harassment, and discrimination based on race, national origin, immigration status, or religion. The fact sheet, which explains DOE policy and what parents can do if their children experience bullying or discrimination,  is available in  ArabicBengaliChineseEnglishFrenchHaitian CreoleRussianSpanish, and Urdu [PDF].

  • In May 2017, Advocates for Children, the Education Trust–New York, the New York Immigration Coalition, and the Committee for Hispanic Children and Families released a policy report, Safe Havens: Protecting and Supporting New York State’s Immigrant Students, which provides a roadmap for steps that New York State and district leaders should take to ensure that immigrant students and their families feel safe and supported by public schools.

Information on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)

On September 5, 2017, the White House announced that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program will be ending as of March 5, 2018. For more information, see:

  • The Legal Aid Society's DACA fact sheet, available in English [PDF] and Spanish [PDF];
  • The Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs' DACA webpage, http://nyc.gov/DACA, for a fact sheet available in 10 languages and links to City resources for DACA recipients;
  • The New York Immigration Coalition's referral guide for individuals seeking DACA renewal assistance; and
  • The website www.weareheretostay.org for general information and resources.

Other Immigration-Related Resources

  • The Legal Aid Society has created a fact sheet explaining recent executive orders on immigration, as well as two fact sheets with information on advance planning in case of parental detention, deportation, or other immigration-related emergency. These fact sheets are available in Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, English, Farsi, French, Haitian Creole, Hindi, Korean, Punjabi, Russian, Spanish, and Urdu.

  • Long Island Wins also provides an explanation of how a non-citizen parent can designate a close relative or friend to make school and limited health care decisions for their children (called "Designation of a Person in Parental Relation").

  • The New York Immigration Coalition has compiled a short list of tips for educators and school staff on supporting undocumented students and families, a Know Your Rights Community Toolkit (available in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Haitian Creole, and Spanish), and a list of organizations [PDF] serving immigrant communities in each of the five boroughs.

  • The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the National Immigration Law Center, MALDEF, and the national teachers' unions recently presented a webinar on the educational rights of immigrant children in the United States. The slide deck, which includes links to additional resources, is available in both English [PDF] and Spanish [PDF].

  • To learn more about Plyler v. Doe, the 1982 case in which the Supreme Court held that all children in the United States have the right to attend school regardless of immigration status, see the American Immigration Council's fact sheet.

  • The New York City Council has a webpage with resources for the City’s immigrant communities.

09.06.2017 |  Tomorrow starts a new school year for most of the 1.1 million students in New York City's public schools. Students will take buses, cars, trains, and ferries to over 1,700 schools scattered throughout the five boroughs. They'll come from homes that speak more than 100 different languages, practice a wide variety of religions, and span the entire spectrum from extreme poverty to enormous wealth. Though their families may have little in common, they will all participate in this annual ritual — a ritual that unites our city, perhaps as much as anything else.

No matter where we're from, how we worship, or what else we believe, families all share a commitment to our children and to education as essential to preparing them to live full and productive lives. We have a collective faith in education's power to transform — not just individual children, but society itself. If we are ever going to overcome the powerful plagues of poverty, racism, and injustice, we know that education is our best hope. As Nelson Mandela said, "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." 

That is why it is so crucial that ALL children have the opportunity for an excellent education, and why Advocates for Children of New York is 100% committed to toppling barriers that stand in their way. During the school year that starts tomorrow, we will advocate for families in more than 7,000 cases, ranging from a student with a disability who is reading three years behind grade level because she didn't get the special education services she needs, to a parent who cannot communicate with her child's teacher because she can't get an interpreter, to a student who is being excluded from school because he was denied necessary mental health support. We will provide hundreds of "know your rights" workshops in Head Start centers, shelters, schools, and community-based organizations throughout the city's diverse neighborhoods. And we will fight for policies to ensure access to quality education for students who are often forgotten, including students who are homeless, undocumented, in foster care, or court-involved. 

As we embark upon another school year, we are proud to partner with you and so many others in service of New York City's families. Together, we can work towards a better world for each and every child. 

Sincerely,
Kim Sweet signature
Kim Sweet
Executive Director

08.24.2017 | The first day of school is Thursday, September 7! In preparation, we've updated our back-to-school fact sheet for families of students with disabilities, which covers concerns that typically come up at this time of year, such as what to do if a child does not yet have a school assignment or the school assigned says they cannot serve the child’s needs. View the fact sheet in English [PDF] and Spanish [PDF]. 

If you have additional questions or need assistance, please call AFC’s Education Helpline: (866) 427-6033, Monday—Thursday, 10am—4pm.

08.24.2017 |  AFC submitted comments on SUNY’s proposed regulations regarding charter school teacher certification. While we believe there is important work to be done across the State to strengthen teacher certification pathways, address shortages of qualified teachers in certain areas, and ensure there is an excellent teacher in every classroom, we are concerned that the proposed regulations would run counter to these goals and would violate state law. View comments [PDF]