New York City School Suspensions
In New York City, the number of superintendent’s suspensions increased by more than 76 percent between 2000 and 2005, jumping from 8,567 to 15,090. A report by the National Economic and Social Rights Initiative (NESRI) found that the NYC schools with the most punitive disciplinary policies are overwhelmingly under-resourced, overcrowded, and primarily attended by low-income students of color. Youth who are suspended from school are more likely to fall behind in school, be retained a grade, and drop out.
Whenever a student faces a superintendent’s suspension, a hearing is scheduled to determine whether the student engaged in the incident as charged and, if so, the appropriate disciplinary measures. Parents have the right to bring a representative to the hearing. However, currently, in NYC, there are very few professionals who represent students in suspension hearings. The vast majority of families are unrepresented at their students’ suspension hearings.
Suspension Representation Project (SRP)
The Suspension Representation Project (SRP) is an advocacy group that trains law students to represent public school students in superintendent’s suspension hearings and help safeguard their right to education. Students at NYU School of Law began SRP in 2007 as part of NYU’s Education Law & Policy Society (Ed Law) to help address the tremendous need to increase access to quality representation for low-income students and parents facing suspension hearings. In the spring of 2009, SRP became a stand-alone student organization, with built in leadership links to the Ed Law Board.
SRP pairs new law student advocates with experienced law student advocates in its attempt to provide excellent training for law students and excellent advocacy for clients. SRP enables law students to develop valuable legal skills including interviewing clients, conducting direct and cross examinations, and delivering closing arguments. SRP routinely helps to shorten the length of the suspension or eliminate the suspension, helping kids stay in school. SRP also participates in coalitions in NYC to try to improve the ways that schools respond to students’ behavior.