New data released late Monday by New York City reveals a troubling rise in school suspensions during the waning days of the Bloomberg administration, according to the leadership of the New York Civil Liberties Union. But a dip in student suspensions since leadership of the schools shifted to Mayor Bill de Blasio and Chancellor Carmen Fariña may indicate the start of a culture shift toward a learning environment that is supportive of all students.

The issue of student suspensions is a matter of particular importance in light of the January guidance issued by the federal Department of Education and Department of Justice aimed at reforming school discipline nationwide. With that the report the federal government for the first time explicitly acknowledged the effects of racially disproportionate school discipline.

The following can be attributed to NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman:

“We are of course disappointed that suspensions rose during the final months of the Bloomberg administration, but we are encouraged that the data since the new administration took over are moving in the right direction. The culture shift New York City schools so desperately needs will not happen overnight, and we appreciate the new administration’s commitment to developing the supports necessary for all of our schools to flourish and for youth from all backgrounds to succeed.

“For too long, exclusionary discipline policies – including school suspensions, arrests and summonses – have been disproportionately hurting New York City’s children of color. Today’s new data do not tell us enough to know which schools are pushing kids out and which children are paying the price. But we can guess.

“We hope that the new leaders of the Department of Education and Police Department, under the leadership of Vincent Schiraldi, as the senior advisor to the mayor’s office on criminal justice, will get us a step closer to a New York City where all children find a supportive learning environment.”

The New York Civil Liberties Union in 2010 filed a class-action lawsuit challenging illegal arrests and excessive force in New York City public schools.

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