New Data Show Decrease in NYC School Suspensions, But More Work Needs to be Done

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New York, NY – New York City public schools posted a 15.6 percent decline in student suspensions during the last school year, but students of color and students with disabilities continue to be suspended at higher rates. 

 According to the city’s Department of Education (DOE), there were 37,647 suspensions during the 2015-16 school year compared to 44,626 suspensions in 2014-15.

While the decrease shows progress, the city needs a clear plan to address racial disparities and disparities for students with disabilities. Black students received 49 percent of all suspensions, but made up only 27.1 percent of the total student population. Students with disabilities received 38.6 percent of suspensions, but made up only 18.7 percent of the student population.

The Dignity in Schools Campaign-New York has been calling on the Department of Education to eliminate suspensions for “defying or disobeying authority,” Infraction B21 in the Discipline Code. After a restriction was put in place last year requiring principals to seek approval from the DOE before suspending students for B21, the DOE has reported a decrease of 75% for this particular infraction, with only 1,530 suspensions given in the 2015-16 school year. We believe this indicates that suspension for this infraction is unnecessary and should be eliminated. National research shows that suspensions for these minor, subjective behaviors, like “defiance,” generate disproportionate rates of exclusion for Black and Latino youth. The NYC DOE lags behind other districts in continuing to allow suspensions for defying authority.  

“School is where students learn how to handle their emotions in a variety of settings, and suspensions for B21 are so subjective they don’t help students in future situations. What ‘insubordination’ means can differ among teachers and administrators, when what staff and students need is clear expectations. Eliminating suspensions for B21 will create a positive learning opportunity for school administrations and communities to be more transparent with each other.” -Samantha Rubin, Teachers Unite member and Spanish Teacher at Kurt Hahn Expeditionary Learning School.

While the Discipline Code lists interventions like counseling, mediation and restorative practices as options schools may use, principals and other school staff are not required to use alternative approaches before resorting to suspensions and other harsh disciplinary tactics. The Los Angeles school district, for example, has mandated School-Wide Positive Behavior Supports in every school since 2007 and recently voted to implement Restorative Practices as well.

Summary of New Data:

Number of Suspensions

·         Total number of suspensions for the 2015-2016 school year was 37, 647, compared to 44,626 in 2014-2015, a decrease of 15.6 percent  

·         Since the 2011-2012 school year (five years ago), suspensions have decreased by almost 46% combined.  Principal suspensions of 1 to 5 days have decreased by 51.9% and superintendent suspensions of more than 5 days have decreased by 20.6%.

Number of Students Suspended

·         The number of students suspended in SY2015-16 was 26,545, a 12% decrease from last year (30,238).

·         The number of students suspended two or more times decreased by nearly 18% compared to SY 2014-15,


The DSC-NY coalition calls for citywide funding and implementation of positive, school-wide approaches to discipline that improve school climate, reduce conflict, and increase learning. Members include: Advocates for Children of New York, Center for Community Alternatives, Children’s Defense Fund-New York, Coalition for Asian American Children and Families, Coalition for Gender Equity in Schools, Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM), DREAM- Safety with Dignity, Future of Tomorrow, Girls for Gender Equity, Make the Road New York, , National Economic and Social Rights Initiative (NESRI), New Settlement Apartments Parent Action Committee, Rockaway Youth Taskforce, Sistas and Brothas United, Teachers Unite, The Sikh Coalition, Ugnayan Youth for Justice and Social Change Urban Youth Collaborative (UYC), YAYA-Network, Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice.