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Know Your Rights
Source: Queens Gazette
Subject: Education Justice
Type: Media Coverage

Nolan Targets School Discipline

A coalition of national, statewide and local organizations are supporting legislation introduced by Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan which aims “to reverse the disturbing school-to-prison pipeline, which starts with excessive use of suspensions, often for minor infractions… an issue that disproportionately affects students of color.”

The legislation was unveiled last week where Nolan (D–Ridgewood), who heads the Assembly’s Education Committee, and former New York State Chief Justice Judith Kaye met with the Coalition Seeking legislation for Comprehensive reform of School Discipline.

At the conference, Nolan’s legislation, A.8396, was widely discussed, and was described as:

“This common-sense legislation is designed to reduce suspensions and keep students in school. The goal of the legislation is to reverse the disturbing school-to-prison pipeline, which starts with excessive use of suspensions, often for minor infractions. This is an issue that disproportionately affects students of color. The most recent data from the New York State Report Card shows that 94,877 students were suspended during the 2012-2013 school year, which is more than 500 suspensions per day. Even children in kindergarten have been subject to suspensions for typical age-level behavior.”

Parents and students also spoke at the press conference urging state legislators to adopt A.8396.

Nolan stated, “Students and parents face many challenges today. It is essential that we create a nurturing and safe environment for every student. That is why we are introducing this bill that will support strong state policies that eliminate inflexible mandates that impose harsh discipline.

“This legislation will support schools and teachers in cultivating respect, personal responsibility and dealing sensibly with conflict. It will provide a path for schools to adapt policies that maintain order and safety while also treating students with dignity and respect.”

Former Chief Judge Kaye, chair of the Permanent Judicial Commission on Justice for Children, stated:

“For too long, we’ve been presented with a false choice between accountability and compassion when responding to our children when they misbehave, disrupt class or defy us. We can have both. We must have both.

“Some kids, particularly those that have experienced trauma, need more support in order to flourish in a school setting. Public schools cannot push these kids out, and as such, we need to ensure schools have positive alternatives and discipline strategies that build reflection and impulse control, as well as a strong sense of community. To use the words of Frederick Douglass, we know that, ‘It’s better to build strong children than fix broken men (and women).’”

Also the press conference, the legislation was hailed as “essential” by Advocates for Children, the Legal Aid Society, Urban Youth Collaborative, Make the Road New York, the New York State Permanent Judicial Commission on Justice for Children, the New York Civil Liberties Union Advancement Project, Alliance for Quality Education and Citizen Action of New York.

Most of the groups present offered statements supporting Nolan’s legislation.

Officials of major organizations spoke in favor of Nolan’s legislation, in addition to students and parents.

Kadiata Kaba, a student with Make the Road and Urban Youth collaborative, stated: “This bill pushes for more interventions and offers students support instead of punishment for minor infractions, Nelson Mandela once said, ‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.’ But how can students change the world if they are constantly being suspended for minor infractions?”

Melanie Funchers, a Rochester parent of four stated, “My daughter was an honor student in the Rochester City School District with dreams of studying neuroscience. But because of the strict code of conduct, which is disproportionately applied, my daughter was starting to get in trouble for such things as going to the restroom and wearing a hat. It got so bad, that she considered dropping out of school. Basically, the school punishes adolescents for being adolescents. This breaks their spirit. This is not ok.”

The following also made statements:

Kathleen R. DeCataldo, Executive Director, New York State Permanent Judicial Commission on Justice for Children: “This law will ensure that schools must have available a range of alternatives rather than only punitive responses to student misconduct. Across the country we have seen these alternatives improve school climate and keep students in their classrooms learning by intervening early and actively seeking to reduce the odds of future misbehavior through interventions such as restorative practices that hold students accountable while teaching them the skills they need to resolve conflicts and ultimately succeed in life.”

Donna Lieberman, Executive Director, New York Civil Liberties Union: “Schools should nurture, support and educate New York’s children, not slap them with a suspension or send them to the police precinct for being late to class or violating the dress code. Excessive discipline policies have damaged the education of our kids, especially kids of color and kids with special needs. By mandating that schools approach misbehavior with respect and care, this legislation is necessary to ensure that children are taught the educational, social and emotional skills they need in school.”

Seymour James, Attorney-in-Chief Legal Aid Society: “The Legal Aid Society strongly supports State Assembly Bill A.8396. Many of the Legal Aid Society’s clients face unnecessary suspensions and exclusions from school, which lead to missed opportunities for learning and significant disengagement from school. The bill would require more extensive use of restorative practices. It would reduce reliance on harsh discipline policies that cause students to disconnect from school, and would provide opportunities to teach students the conflict resolution skills they need to be successful.”

Maria Bautista, Alliance for Quality Education’s, New York City Campaigns Coordinator: “Every child needs a safe and nurturing environment in school. They need a place where they feel respected and where teachers can teach and students can learn. We need this legislation so schools can move forward with common-sense practices toward discipline.”

Kaitlin Banner, Staff Attorney at Advancement Project: “All children deserve access to a quality education, but too often, children of color are pushed out of the classroom through harsh school disciplinary policies,” “Act 8396 promotes fair and equitable school discipline policies and affirms our commitment to ensuring equal educational opportunities for all children.”

Kim Sweet, Executive Director, Advocates for Children: “This bill breaks new ground in New York State by encouraging districts to support schools in developing school-wide approaches to preventing problem behavior by, for example, teaching students and staff how to handle conflicts constructively.”

MALONEY JOINS SUPPORTERS TO FORCE VOTE ON EXPORTIMPORT BANK: Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, a senior member of the House Financial Services Committee, joined a majority of the House members on October 9 in a procedural move that would force a vote to extend the charter of the Export-Import Banks, which had been allowed to expire on June 30 by the majority Republicans.

Maloney signed a “discharge petition,” with 218 of her colleagues on October 9 to require a vote on legislation that would authorize the bank. In July, Maloney (D–Queens/Manhattan) released a report from the Joint Economic Committee Democrats, showing the bank has supported $217 billion in exports and 1.3 million jobs since 2009. Republican leaders had blocked efforts to extend the charter and it expired on June 30, 2015.

Maloney stated, “Shutting down the Export-Import Bank makes no sense at all. That’s why a majority of the House today signed a discharge petition to finally force the House to have a vote to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank. Ex-Im supports 164,000 jobs across the country and levels the playing field for our companies to compete globally. Last month, General Electric announced it was moving 350 good paying jobs in upstate New York to Canada, all because the bank charter expired. Today’s procedural move to force a vote on extending the bank was critically important.”

Maloney explained, over the last century, only four discharge petitions have made it all the way through to receive final approval and adoption.

Continuing, Maloney explained, as the Ranking Member of the Joint Economic Committee, she released a JEC Democratic staff report that found that the Export-Import Bank helps level the playing field for American manufacturers hoping to compete and sell their goods in foreign markets. At absolutely no cost to taxpayers, the Bank directly supported 164,000 American export jobs in the last year alone, and has created or sustained 1.3 million private sector jobs since 2009.

Maloney pointed out that the discharge petition calls for a vote on H. Res. 450, a special rule that would reauthorize the Export- Import Bank’s charter for four years and restore certainty to the bank’s future. The discharge petition will require the House to consider the reauthorization legislation because a majority of the House of Representatives have signed the petition.

On April 21, Maloney testified before the New York City Council Committee on Economic Development during a hearing on the importance of the bank to New York’s businesses. Local business leaders called on Congress to extend the bank’s charter because of the significant and positive impact the institution provides to New York’s economy.

CROWLEY: GOP THREATS HURT ECONOMY: Congressman Joseph Crowley (D–Queens-The Bronx), Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus, issued the following statement last week following issuance of the Department of Labor’s September jobs report which found that the economy added 142,000 jobs and the unemployment rate remained at 5.1 percent, its lowest level since early 2008.

Crowley stated: “While we see positive signs in our economy, including September marking the 67th consecutive month of private sector job growth, the fact remains that we can – and must– do more to make sure our country is operating on all cylinders.

“What doesn’t strengthen the economy are continuous threats by Republicans to shut down the government. Neither does bringing us to the brink of defaulting on our nation’s debts, like Republicans have done in the past and could possibly do yet again this November.

“We need to work together to enact an agenda that creates jobs, boosts our economy, and makes life better for all American families. That is the Congress this country needs and deserves.”

MENG BILL REQUIRES EPA NOT FAA, TO COMBAT AIRPLANE NOISE: Complaining that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has “failed to alleviate aircraft noise” over Queens, Congresswoman Grace Meng has introduced legislation to require the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to take the lead in combating aircraft noise over the borough and in affected communities throughout the US.

Meng (D–Flushing) stated: “The FAA has failed the residents of Queens. It continues to ignore the borough by making no real attempt to decrease the excessive aircraft noise over the area. I believe that the EPA is better suited to handle the problem, and this bill is the best way for the agency to take control of it.”

The Congresswoman’s bill has Queens Congressmembers Joseph Crowley and Steve Israel among her many co-sponsors.

Meng pointed out, “Noise is an environmental issue and the EPA has handled mitigation efforts in the past. It’s time to take noise control away from the FAA and give the EPA a try.”

Meng’s legislation, the Quiet Communities Act of 2015 would restore the EPA’s Office of Noise Abatement and Control, which previously oversaw the nation’s noise control activities until it was defunded by the Reagan Administration in 1981 due to budget cuts. The measure would also require the EPA Administrator to conduct a study of airport noise and examine the FAA’s selection of noise measurement methodologies, health impact thresholds, and abatement program effectiveness.

The Flushing lawmaker noted that although airplane noise has long existed over Queens due to the proximity of New York’s airports, the blistering sounds of jets significantly increased in 2012 when the FAA implemented new flight patterns over the borough. These new routes, which are for airplanes departing LaGuardia have increased the frequency of flights over residential neighborhoods in Queens, and the substantial rise in aircraft noise has negatively impacted the quality of life for borough residents.

Meng, who has secured additional noise monitors for Queens and played a role in creating the new airplane noise community roundtable, is a founder and co-chair of the Congressional Quiet Skies Caucus established last year. It works to mitigate excessive airplane noise that adversely affects communities.

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