Democrat Senator: ‘No Discernible Penalty’ for Assaultive Students in NYC Schools

Sen. Leroy Comrie, D-Queens, works in the Senate Chamber at the Capitol on Thursday, March 12, 2015, in Albany, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
AP Photo/Mike Groll

New York state Sen. Leroy Comrie lambasted New York City’s school discipline policy that has allowed assaultive students to go without punishment for their acts to help them avert the “school-to-prison pipeline.”

In an op-ed at the New York Post, the Democrat state senator related “alarming” incidents that were reported to him by both teachers and parents, and described the city’s public schools as places mired in chaos:

I heard from two different teachers who were assaulted by students who were never removed from the building. In both instances, medical attention was required for the assaulted educators.

The parents mentioned bullying as a major concern and the impact of having “suspended” students return to the school or classroom of the victim.

In addition, parents who have attended meetings and hearings for a child who has been bullied are often told nothing can be done to remove the perpetrator from the classroom or separate that same student from the victim.

The Obama administration’s policy urging leniency for minority students in schools in order to help them avoid incarceration has led to increased chaos and fear, wrote law professor Gail Heriot, a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, in an op-ed at USA Today in March 2018.

Heriot observed as well the policy caused disruptive and threatening students to remain in the classroom, making it difficult for other students of all races to learn amid the disorder.

“The Obama-era policy hurt the very students it was trying to benefit,” she wrote.

In December, the Trump Departments of Education and Justice finally rescinded the Obama-era disciplinary guidance. A federal safety commission found the Obama-era policy “may have paradoxically contributed to making schools less safe.”

“Am I getting more complaints about safety and discipline than five or 10 years ago when I served in city government?” Comrie wrote in his column. “The short answer is yes.”

“Having students with disruptive behavior problems is counterproductive to a learning environment and leads to a loss of instructional time for both students and teachers,” Comrie asserted, adding that the primary goal can no longer be social justice issues.

“[M]ore immediate is the need to implement a better way of dealing with students with disruptive behaviors,” he wrote, “behaviors that negatively affect an entire school environment and culture.”

Comrie continued that, beyond suspension, “there is no discernible penalty” for assaultive behavior currently.

“[A]nd from what I have heard from our community is that there is no evidence of interventions, alternatives or any system in place for positive reinforcement or behavior modification.”

“I don’t think the structure is effective where a student assaults a teacher and is still in the cafeteria after doing so,” the lawmaker said. “There has to be some kind of happy medium. We all care about the future of our public schools. We have to do something.”


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