May 8, 2019: New York State Bar Association Approves Report Addressing School to Prison Pipeline

The New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) has released a report aimed at curtailing the growing school to prison pipeline problem. The report includes recommendations for the use of restorative justice practices in lieu of student suspensions.

“NYSBA’s Task Force on the School to Prison Pipeline was established to study relevant issues, information, law and current practices with respect to school discipline, outline appropriate disciplinary sanctions and restorative justice alternatives including youth courts, and recommend discipline and restorative justice best practices for school districts,” said NYSBA President Michael Miller.

“The school to prison pipeline pushes schoolchildren, especially at-risk youth, out of the classroom and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems,” Miller added. “As more school districts utilize the recommendations for treating student misconduct that are outlined in this excellent report, we believe that this disturbing trend will be diminished.”

The report provides an overview of the student suspension statute, New York Education Law §3214, which sets forth the procedures to be used by school districts in disciplining students with respect to out-of-school suspensions. The task force reviewed studies showing that students who are excluded from school face adverse consequences, including lower academic achievement, higher truancy, higher dropout rates, and higher contact with the juvenile justice system. 

These adverse impacts are experienced at higher rates by students of color, students with disabilities, and LGBTQ students. Studies further demonstrate that students who are suspended are three times more likely to have risk of contact with the judicial system and two times more likely to drop out of school than are students who are not suspended from school.

Among the recommendations by the task force to help rectify the school to prison pipeline: inclusion of language in Education Law Section 3214 to permit and endorse the use of restorative justice practices in lieu of suspensions; the development of a standardized methodology for measuring disparities in discipline at both district and school levels across the protected classes of race, gender, disability and, if possible, by LGBTQ status; and that the state Legislature and governor provide ample financial support to school districts’ introduction of restorative justice practices.

The task force was appointed in 2017 by then-President Sharon Stern Gerstman and was co-chaired by Sheila A. Gaddis (Volunteer Legal Services Project of Monroe County, Inc.) and John H. Gross (Ingerman Smith). It also included advisory members who represented school districts, school boards, universities and youth courts. 

The report was approved last month at the State Bar’s House of Delegates meeting in Albany.

Click here to view the full report.

About the New York State Bar Association
The New York State Bar Association is the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation. Since 1876, NYSBA has helped shape the development of law, educated and informed the legal profession and the public, and championed the rights of New Yorkers through advocacy and guidance in our communities.

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Contact: Christian Nolan 
cnolan@nysba.org
518-487-5536