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Know Your Rights
Source: New York Times
Subject: Education Justice
Type: Media Coverage

Protesters Target Weiner on School Discipline Stance

Anthony D. Weiner has not yet entered the New York City mayor’s race, and may never become a candidate. But that did not stop some protesters from converging on his doorstep on Monday afternoon to challenge one of his educational policies should he decide to run.

Holding bright-color signs and chanting, students and organizers from two groups [including a group of Make the Road’s youth members] advocating changes in education, the Urban Youth Collaborative and New Yorkers for Great Public Schools, stood outside Mr. Weiner’s apartment building on Park Avenue South, near Gramercy Park, to denounce a statement Mr. Weiner made in a policy booklet released last month. In the document, titled “Keys to the City,” he wrote that his first educational priority was to “streamline the process of removing troublesome kids from the classroom.”

The city’s current policy emphasizes using suspensions and arrests to enforce school safety. The protesters — some of them high school students who said they had previously been arrested or suspended — said the policy disproportionately affected black and Hispanic students and unnecessarily disrupted students’ educations.

“Instead of proposing an ineffective and harmful policy for student safety, you should embrace successful and proven strategies like restorative justice that improve safety, reduce conflict and increase learning,” the groups wrote in a letter to Mr. Weiner, which protesters tried to hand-deliver on Monday. (A doorman would not allow them inside the building, at East 20th Street, but took the letter.)

An attempt to contact Mr. Weiner for comment was not immediately successful.

Chima Agwu, 20, a graduate of Belmont Preparatory High School in the Bronx, warned that disaffected students could punish Mr. Weiner for outmoded educational policies by not voting for him in the fall — assuming, of course, that he is a candidate.

“You’re asking for a second chance, but you’re not giving the students a second chance,” he said, referring to Mr. Weiner’s efforts to rehabilitate his public image after he was forced to resign from the United States House in 2011 after it was revealed that he had sent salacious photos via Twitter to several women. “All they’re asking for is a second chance to get an education and better themselves.”

Maria Fernandez, a coordinator for the Urban Youth Collective, said the groups hoped Mr. Weiner would sit down with them to discuss ways to improve school safety through mediation or by addressing underlying issues, like inadequate funding for student support services. He had initially agreed to meet with them, organizers said, but later did not respond to requests to fix a date.

According to the groups, 95.2 percent of arrests and 89 percent of suspensions involved black and Hispanic students. Education Department figures for suspensions among the two groups in the 2011-12 school year are lower — 52 percent for black students and 36 percent for Hispanic students — but still disproportionately high relative to the school system’s overall enrollment. The department does not keep figures on student arrests.

The declared Democratic mayoral candidates — “your likely rivals,” as the letter to Mr. Weiner pointedly notes — have embraced school safety policiesthat would try to address these racial disparities, organizers said.

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