stop and frisk jr?

Liu extends call for discipline changes, starting in middle school

A chart
A chart from Comptroller John Liu’s new report shows that suspension rates rise sharply in the middle school years. Liu proposes adding guidance counselors and changing the city’s discipline code to reduce suspensions.

New York City’s school discipline practices have given rise to an early-onset “stop-and-frisk atmosphere” that must be changed, according to Comptroller John Liu.

In a new report, Liu — who is running for mayor — cites Department of Education suspension and arrest data to argue that the city should add more guidance counselors, eliminate long-term suspensions, and turn over control of school safety from the New York Police Department to principals. He pegs the annual cost of adding 50 percent more middle school guidance counselors at $55 million.

According to data that the department must disclose publicly under a law that the City Council passed in 2010, suspension and arrest rates rise sharply during middle school and that black and Latino students, especially males, are suspended disproportionately often. Liu’s report connects the trends to high school dropout rates and contends that more black and Latino students would graduate if schools adopted discipline practices that emphasized changing student behavior.

In a statement, Liu compared the discipline patterns inside schools to the city’s controversial practice of stopping, questioning, and frisking people who seem likely to commit a crime. Black and Latino New Yorkers are stopped most often, and critics of the practice, who include Liu and several other Democratic mayoral candidates, say it is often applied inappropriately.

“This report demonstrates the sad reality that the stop-and-frisk atmosphere, which presumes that men of color are guilty until proven innocent, begins as early as age 11,” he said.

His comments reiterate ones he made this spring at a rally convened by the Dignity in Schools campaign, which has long pushed for less punitive school discipline policies, to pressure mayoral candidates to commit to changing school discipline practices.

“I think the numbers speak for themselves,” Liu said at the rally, which he was the only candidate to attend. “You see the disparities in the school suspensions and disciplinary actions disproportionately against students of color, and you see things like racial profiling and stop and frisk that are clearly tilted disproportionately way against people of color.”

The report’s recommendations echo those made by the campaign and its supporters over the last several years. Liu also recommends adding more guidance counselors and social workers in city middle schools, dovetailing with a recommendation he made last year to more than double the number of counselors in high schools. That proposal would cost $176 million a year, his office said.

Department of Education officials said the city had already implemented many of the strategies that Liu’s report promotes, to significant effect.

“Suspensions have decreased by 23 percent as a result of the reforms we have introduced, including peer mediation and conflict resolution, to address issues before they escalate,” said a spokeswoman, Marge Feinberg.

Indeed, suspensions and arrests fell sharply last year, following a policy change last year that reduced penalties for minor misbehavior, introduced some alternatives to suspensions, and eliminated suspensions altogether for the city’s youngest students. But the department made more incremental changes to the discipline code for this year, leading advocates to say that the city had passed up an opportunity to improve the school safety climate even more.

Liu’s report is the latest in his office’s “Beyond High School NYC” initiative, which Liu said uses research to propose “strategic investments in public education” to raise the college-graduation rate for New York City public school students. Previous reports in the series called for the city to spend $176 million a year on guidance counselors to help more students get into college; to buy $40 million of computers a year to get all families online; to overhaul the city’s school board, known as the Panel for Educational Policy; and to introduce publicly funded preschool for three-year-olds.

The complete report is below:

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”