Hundreds of school suspensions would have been shortened during 2018-19 school year under new discipline policy

FILE PHOTO: Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Carranza tour New Bridges Elementary School ahead of schools reopening
Jeenah Moon/Pool via REUTERS

Hundreds of school suspensions could have been shortened during the school year prior to the pandemic under a recently adopted school discipline policy, according to the Independent Budget Office. 

In 2019, Mayor Bill de Blasio adopted and began implementing a school discipline policy capping the length of most school suspensions at 20 days from potentially a maximum of 180. And according to the city’s Independent Budget Office, if that rule would have been implemented a year earlier, 440 out of the 1,300 school suspensions for more than 20 days would have been eligible for a reduction in length. 

That number makes up a very small amount out of the total 32,800 suspensions given out that school year, just over 1%. But that number still represents dozens of students who could have avoided being sent to an alternative learning center and thousands of taxpayer dollars spent on enforcing the suspensions.

Public school students who receive a suspension for more than five are given something called a “superintendent suspension” and can sometimes be required to attend hearings moved from their school to one of New York City’s 31 alternative learning centers both of which can be pricy. During the 2018-19 academic year, the Department of Education spent $39 million sending students who got at superintendent suspension to an alternative learning center and another $7 million on suspension and hearing offices, according to the IBO.

A DOE spokesperson noted that the IBO report does not take into account the work the department was done to lower the length of suspensions prior to the 2018-19 school year. The number of school suspensions longer than 20 days decreased by 73% between the 2013-14 school year to the school year prior to the pandemic and out of all superintendent suspensions in the 2019-202 school year, only 3% were longer than 20 days, the spokesperson added. But it is unclear how many total suspensions were given last year. 

In addition, out of all superintendent suspensions given in the 2017-18 school year, 31% were longer than 20 days and out of all the superintendent suspensions given in the 2018-19 school year only 14% were longer than 20 days. 

Note: This article was updated at 2:25 p.m. on Oct. 14, 2021 with comment from the Department of Education.