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report cover12.08.2016 | Today, Advocates for Children of New York (AFC) is releasing a report, Obstacles and Opportunities: Creating Career and Technical Education Pathways for Students with Disabilities [PDF], which analyzes access to high school-level career and technical education (CTE) programs for students with disabilities in New York State.  In 2015, less than 50% of students with disabilities graduated from high school in four years, compared to about 83% of general education students. The new report, which analyzes public data on outcomes for students in CTE programs, finds that more than 75% of students with disabilities who completed at least two-thirds of a CTE program went on to graduate, compared to about 90% of general education students—effectively cutting the graduation gap in half for these students.

The paper finds that although students with disabilities made up about 15% of the class that was expected to graduate in 2015, they comprised only 11.6% of students reported to have completed most of a CTE program. Based on data findings and interviews with professionals, special education advocates, and parents of students with disabilities, AFC recommends changes to policy and practice to address barriers to CTE.

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

12.01.2016 | Advocates for Children recently submitted “friend of the court” briefs to the U.S. Supreme Court in two cases, Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District and Stacy Fry and Brent Fry, et al. v. Napoleon Community Schools, et al. 

Endrew F. presents the important question of what makes an education “appropriate” as guaranteed by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).  The law firm Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr LLP drafted the brief on behalf of AFC. View the amicus brief [PDF

In Fry v. Napoleon Community Schools, AFC and the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) submitted an amicus brief in support of petitioners Stacy and Brent Fry, the parents of a student with cerebral palsy who was prescribed a service dog to aid her with everyday tasks. The brief argues that parents and children should not be required to exhaust the IDEA’s administrative remedies when the relief is available only under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act and not the IDEA. View the amicus brief [PDF]

10.31.2016 | Today, the City released 2015-2016 school year data pursuant to the Student Safety Act showing the number of suspensions totaled 37,647, which is a decrease by approximately 16% compared to the previous year and by almost 46% compared to five years ago. Despite these improvements, Black students and students with disabilities continued to be disproportionately suspended from school. 

In the 2015-2016 school year, Black students were suspended at 3.61 times the rate of White students—down from 3.94 in the prior year. In the same year, although students with disabilities comprised about 18.7% of the student population, they comprised 38.6% of the total number of suspensions—up from 38.2% in the prior year.

While the total number of suspensions decreased, the data released today reveals that the number of teacher’s classroom removals increased to a total of 11,943, nearly 5% over the prior year. The City also publicly released for the first time the number of students in temporary housing suspended from school and the number of students suspended more than once in the 2015-2016 school year. Students in temporary housing made up 10% of the student population, but accounted for 12% of the total number of suspensions. 25.24% of students suspended were suspended more than once.

“We are pleased to see the numbers continue to go down. We hope to see the City make a long-term commitment—with the funding and the inter-agency collaboration to back it up—to continue to move from a punitive and exclusionary approach to discipline to a preventive and restorative one, while ensuring that all children have the social-emotional supports they need and eliminating disparities by race and disability in disciplinary practices,” said Kim Sweet, the Executive Director of Advocates for Children of New York.

NYPD data for the third quarter of 2016 also released today shows significant racial disparities in students arrested, handcuffed, and issued summonses. Additionally, the data reveals a mismatch in city agency intervention: 25% of police interventions in schools had nothing to do with law enforcement, but rather involved students in emotional distress.

Dawn Yuster, Director of AFC’s School Justice Project, said, “The Administration should immediately adopt and implement the Mayor’s Leadership Team on School Climate and Discipline’s recommendations on mental health—namely, by launching a pilot program providing a comprehensive mental health service continuum in 20 high-needs schools, including using hospital-based clinics and providing whole-school Collaborative Problem Solving training to support these schools.”

View statement [PDF]

10.19.2016 | Today, AFC submitted testimony to the New York City Council Committee on Education with recommendations for addressing bullying in New York City public schools and supporting LGBTQ students, students with disabilities, and other vulnerable populations. View testimony [PDF]

10.12.2016 | This November and December, the New York Region 1 Parent Training and Information Center (PTIC) Collaborative is presenting a webinar series on transition to adulthood for students with disabilities! Topics include: graduation requirements and diploma options; supporting student participation in the IEP process; available resources for transition; and services for individuals with developmental disabilities.

See the flyer [PDF] for more information and register online.
 

webinar flyer

09.30.2016 | Today, AFC submitted comments in response to the New York State Education Department’s proposed plan to promote inclusion among preschool and school-age students with disabilities. Read our comments [PDF]

09.21.2016 | Today, AFC is testifying before the New York City Council Committee on Education regarding access to Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs for students with disabilities and English Language Learners (ELLs). CTE is shown to help keep at-risk students – such as ELLs and students with disabilities – engaged and on-track for graduation; but while students with disabilities and ELLs generally do well in the city’s CTE programs, both groups are underrepresented among CTE students. View testimony [PDF]

09.20.2016 | Today, AFC submitted comments to the New York City Department of Education regarding proposed changes to Chancellor’s Regulation A-101 regarding school transfers, admissions, and enrollment. Read our comments [PDF]

09.15.2016 | Today, the New York City Police Department (NYPD) released data showing that schools have continued to become safer: there are record lows in school crime and fewer students arrested for school-related incidents. Despite these improvements, new data reported pursuant to Student Safety Act amendments passed last year illustrates the critical need for the City to embark on a long overdue strategic plan to address significant racial disparities in students arrested, issued summonses, and handcuffed in school. 

“While the data shows a welcome decline in school crime, it’s very troubling to see the continued racial disparities in who is arrested or given a summons, with Black and Latino students disproportionately affected. The City needs to develop and implement a comprehensive plan that tackles these disparities head on and uses data to target its efforts effectively,” said Kim Sweet, the Executive Director of Advocates for Children of New York.

In addition to the racial disparities, the second quarter data suggests that some school staff have not received appropriate de-escalation training and some schools do not have appropriate de-escalation plans in place to manage students in emotional crisis, as required by the New York City Department of Education (DOE) Chancellor’s Regulation A-411. Consequently, students in emotional crisis as young as 7 years old are getting handcuffed in schools.

The data also shows that students—almost all of whom are students of color—get entangled in the court system for noncriminal incidents at school. Students as young as 16 years old receive a summons to appear in court for minor misbehavior that does not rise to the level of a crime. The City must move quickly to revise the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the NYPD and the DOE to decriminalize student misbehavior by clearly delineating the roles of school administrators and the NYPD.

Finally, the data reveals a troubling number of students arrested in school for incidents that occurred outside of school. 38% of student arrests in school were for non-school related incidents. “Schools are places of learning. Students should not fear that they or their friends will be interrogated, arrested, and hauled off in handcuffs by police officers when they go to school,” said Dawn Yuster, School Justice Project Director at Advocates for Children of New York.

View statement [PDF]

09.07.2016 | At Advocates for Children of New York, we are gearing up for the first day of school, a moment that invites us to reflect on what we do and how we want to impact the world around us. Each new school year brings new demands but also new opportunities to use our resources and expertise to improve the lives of children in New York City and across New York State. 

This summer started with a June and July that highlighted some of the terrible problems facing our society. Forty-nine people were murdered at a gay nightclub in Orlando. Communities across the country erupted in protest as two more videos showed men of color -- Alton Sterling and Philando Castile -- being killed in police shootings. And anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim rhetoric continued to dominate the national political stage. 

For many of the young people we serve, gun violence, police brutality, racism, and prejudice are ever-present concerns. They have to navigate this treacherous terrain as they grow up and go to school; despite all that is going on around them, they have to feel safe enough to be able to learn and optimistic enough about their future to be motivated to try. When they encounter roadblocks to an appropriate education, it is critically important that they and their families have somewhere to turn for assistance. As an organization dedicated for 45 years to eradicating barriers to education based on factors like poverty, race, disability, and national origin, we have a responsibility to do everything we can to provide young people with the support they need to meet the challenges of their current environment and emerge with the education they need to live full and productive lives. 

As we prepare for the start of a new school year, we re-affirm our commitment to advocate for the children who most need our help to succeed in school -- the children whom the school system does not serve well for a variety of reasons, ranging from overt prejudice to implicit bias, from under-funded programs to inadequately trained staff. In the coming year, we will be expanding our advocacy for students who are LGBTQ and students who experience bullying. We will strengthen our partnerships with organizations serving NYC's diverse immigrant communities, including families that speak Spanish, Arabic, and Chinese. And we will continue our work to stop the school-to-prison pipeline by, for example, fighting for access to early childhood education, demanding appropriate support and services for students with disabilities, and advocating for students involved with the court system to get their education back on track. 

Thank you for your partnership and support as we work together towards a brighter future for New York's children. We're looking forward to a great year! 

Sincerely,
kim signature
Kim Sweet
Executive Director