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Micaela is a dual-language learner who is on the autism spectrum and needed an appropriate school placement for kindergarten.

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AFC in the News

07.17.2022 | NY Daily News | But for thousands of kids with emotional disabilities sent to District 75, it often serves as little more than a holding ground, according to interviews with 10 current and former district families and staffers from multiple schools. 

“It’s become outrageous what’s happening on a large-scale basis,” said Dawn Yuster, the director of the School Justice Project at Advocates for Children. “What we’re doing is pushing students out of school, not educating them, setting them up… especially kids who are Black and brown, to end up in the school-to-prison pipeline.” Read article

07.13.2022 | The Imprint | “It’s really important to get these folks in place in time for the beginning of the new school year so that they can begin to support students,” said Erika Palmer, supervising attorney at Advocates for Children. “We don’t want another school year to go forward when this is still a big struggle. Students are being impacted.” Read article

07.12.2022 | City & State | As for students with disabilities and those living in temporary housing, transportation remains one of the biggest barriers, according to Randi Levine, policy director at Advocates for Children of New York. 

Last year, bussing was only offered at the close of the day’s academic portion, which meant many of these students were left out of the afternoon enrichment activities as they wouldn’t have a way home if they stayed until 6 p.m. This summer, the department of education is offering eligible families two ridesharing options for students who stay until 6 p.m., with the caveat that an authorized adult must be available to use the service to pick their child up. Paraprofessionals and nurses are also not allowed to travel with the child. 

“Students who have special education classes for the summer are assigned a site and often that site is far away from where they live,” Levine said. “It can be very difficult for a parent to have to travel to the site and take their child home even with the availability of rideshare. Certainly it does work for some parents, but not for others.” 

Still, she said she’s been heartened to see other strides the department has taken in increasing the program's accessibility. About 70 different Summer Rising sites are being co-located with students from District 75, which serves students with significant needs, meaning they’ll also be able to participate in afternoon enrichment activities. Read article

07.12.2022 | Politico New York | Randi Levine, policy director for nonprofit Advocates for Children of New York, said the Covid-19 stimulus funding presented an opportunity to invest in some key programs like adding social workers in schools and helping address the shortage of preschool special education programs. 

Given that the investments were made with one-time funding, the city, state and federal elected officials have their “work cut out” figuring out how to sustain the programs in the long term, she said. Read article

07.11.2022 | The New York Post | “Last fall, the City announced a first-ever DOE team devoted to meeting the unique needs of students in foster care. However, the DOE delayed posting these positions,” read the letter, co-signed by Advocates for Children and other child welfare and education groups. 

“While we understand that several positions are now moving forward, the DOE has still not committed publicly to hiring the full team that it promised to serve students in foster care,” it said. 

Advocates, in their letter Friday, also called on the DOE to guarantee foster care students receive bus transportation — as required by federal law — so they don’t have to change schools each time they are placed in a new home. Close to one in five students switched schools when entering foster care — and again with each change in foster care placement, the advocates wrote, citing data from the 2019-2020 school year. 

“For students separated from their families and placed in foster care, school has the potential to be an important stabilizing factor in their lives,” read the memo. “However, without guaranteed transportation, this potential often goes unrealized, causing many students to transfer schools and experience further instability.” Read article

07.07.2022 | The 74 | In step with his findings, Rohini Singh, assistant director at the School Justice Project for Advocates for Children of New York, said some schools are ratcheting up the punishments for incidents that would have been handled differently prior to the pandemic. 

This is particularly true of on-campus fights, she said: A scuffle between two children that drew a crowd of onlookers might not have resulted in an out-of-school suspension in the past, but has stark consequences today — and not only for the students at the heart of the tussle. Onlookers are also being targeted, she said, charged with an infraction called “group violence,” a punishment previously doled out only to those who planned an attack in advance. 

“The school is seeking a [lengthy] suspension for all of these students instead of looking at the individual circumstances, understanding what happened, the context,” Singh said.  Read article

07.07.2022 | BronxNet | Host Daren Jaime sits down with the Staff Attorney of the Immigrant Students' Rights Project at Advocates for Children, Diana Aragundi speaking about the initiative establishing a permanent, central system for immigrant family communications. Watch video

07.05.2022 | NY Post | Advocates on Tuesday continued to monitor how the city would address the unique needs of some students, like children with disabilities or living in homeless shelters. Summer Rising last year was criticized for being inaccessible to those students, which the Adams administration acknowledged when it announced the revamped program this spring.

Some of those problems still lingered on the first day of the program. “The bus showed up this morning, but there was no paraprofessional,” said Randi Levine of Advocates for Children, about one of the families who works with the advocacy group. “So the child was not allowed to get on the bus,” she said. Read article

06.14.2022 | City Limits | “This was a multi-faceted program,” explained Rita Rodriguez-Engberg, director of AFC’s Immigrant Students’ Rights Project, “in which the DOE created a working group, of which we were part.” 

The group worked on finding the most effective ways to communicate with immigrant parents which included things like sending postcard notices to families’ homes; reaching families over the phone, text messages or robocalls; using local ethnic media; launching the first city-wide campaign to translate Special Education documents; and partnering with immigrant-facing, community-based organizations to share a variety of updates from the DOE.

According to a recently published data analysis by Advocates for Children of New York (AFC), an estimated 329,000 city students did not have a parent who speaks English fluently and 29,608 students’ parents have limited English proficiency (LEP) and speak a language outside those traditionally supported by the DOE. Read article | Leer en español

06.13.2022 | Chalkbeat NY | Juliet Eisenstein, a staff attorney with Advocates For Children’s Postsecondary Readiness Project, was hopeful that the board would continue to look at moving away from requiring students to pass exams in order to graduate as most other states have done. 

“This proposed amendment is a step towards recognizing that the Regents exams present a barrier to diplomas for many students who are otherwise ready to graduate high school,” she said. Read article