A shifted attitude: DOE to change disciplinary code

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This summer, the Department of Education has held meetings across the city to receive feedback to proposed changes to NYC school disciplinary codes. Changes suggest a shift from stricter punishments to a discipline system that offers a wider range of interventions for students who break the rules.

These alterations will build upon existing DOE codes as well as include input from the community meetings. The Queens session was held on July 1, and additional sessions are planned in Brooklyn, Staten Island, and The Bronx. 

The DOE has added community service and conflict resolution as intervention options for students. The DOE’s documents state, “Community service allows students to develop skills and engage in real-life solutions to help communities. It holds students accountable for their behavior and allows them to make positive amends to the community in order to counter their earlier misconduct.” 

They have revised the guidelines for suspensions. The documents state, “a Superintendent’s suspension may not exceed 20 school days, except in cases that involve serious or violent incidents, or those required by law.” The previous code allowed for suspensions up to a year long.

The disciplinary code changes raise questions about whether or not it will lead to potential changes in THHS’ demerit system. Many would like the demerit system changed. Senior Calvin Tan explained, “Although the demerit system provides a sense of accountability, some of these rules can be loosened in a way that’s still acceptable and fair.” 

“Many demerits are also issued for situations not stated in the book, which is unfair cause some students don’t know whether or not they’re allowed to commit certain actions,” he continued. 

Assistant Principal of ISS and World Languages Georgia Brandeis said, “We should probably now take the [new] discipline code and really look at it. And say what does this mean for us as a school, what does this mean for our demerit system, how does this plan or how do these consequences affect our students and change behaviors. And maybe we need to rethink it.”                                                              

However, when asked how the changes in the discipline code will affect the demerit system, Assistant Principal of Organization Ellen Fee said, “Not at all.”

The new changes suggest a shift in the DOE’s approach towards regulating student behavior. 

Ms. Brandeis said, “I think that now we’re finally thinking about how to implement restorative processes and how to get students to sort of learn from what they’re doing, but also for us to learn from them: Why they’re acting a certain way, why certain behaviors are present.”