“This report makes clear that our kids are facing greater social challenges than ever at school, and the City must properly identify the magnitude of the problem and provide additional resources to bring down the conflict and bullying that’s become pervasive. Our young people are yearning for mental health support – we heard it straight from them, and it’s time we address the problem head on,” said New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer. “Schools should be sanctuaries where every child feels safe and supported, but all too often, when students need help, they don’t receive the care they need. We need to improve our school climates with a significant, system-wide investment in order to unleash the potential of every child in this city. That’s why I’m calling for the City to prioritize supporting all students through small group advisories, a proven way to ensure each student has a trusted adult in school they can turn to. The City should also expand universal school-based mental health services. If we’re going to give every child the care and support they deserve, we have to do it right.”
Increased and expanded social services are critical to address the growing prevalence of violence, bullying and punitive action uncovered by the policy report:
In response, Comptroller Stringer’s report calls for expanding small group advisories, increasing in-school social workers and other critical staff as well as mental health services to accommodate students’ needs.
The Comptroller’s Office simultaneously released an audit of the Department of Education. Under state law, the DOE is required to report certain “violent and disruptive incidents” in schools to the state’s Violent and Disruptive Incident Report (VADIR) system, including minor altercations, episodes of intimidation or harassment, as well as assault, weapons possession and sexual offenses. The system is intended to capture data on the initial disruptive or violent incidents, and the school’s follow-up procedure, which may include suspension, removal, or referral to guidance counselors, among other actions taken.
The audit found clear breakdowns in communication in the reporting and tracking of incidents and actions taken. Specifically, the audit found that across all City public schools, 1,553 schools reported a total of 41,559 incidents – ranging from 1 to 271 incidents per school. 44 schools reported no incidents. The audit also includes a deeper analysis based on a sample of 10 schools – key findings reveal a lack of reporting and conflicting records from School Safety Records, the City’s tracking system and the state’s VADIR tracking system. Significantly, DOE had no records of corrective action in 83 percent of required student behavioral incidents, including nearly 400 incidents that were classified as serious infractions.
Comptroller Stringer’s report lays out a series of comprehensive recommendations for improving school safety and climate and reducing the high economic and social cost to the City of current disciplinary practices. Recommendations include: