Gotham Gazette http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/1637 Fri, 20 Oct 2017 16:25:08 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) Council Bills Aimed at Clarity, Improvement Around School Discipline and Support http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5681:council-bills-aimed-at-clarity-improvement-around-school-discipline-and-support http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5681:council-bills-aimed-at-clarity-improvement-around-school-discipline-and-support torres alatriste

CM Ritchie Torres at a recent event (photo: William Alatriste)


At a joint hearing of the City Council's Committees on Public Safety and Education on Tuesday, council members will discuss and hear testimony on three bills addressing school safety.

One bill, sponsored by Council Member Ritchie Torres, would require the city Department of Education (DOE) to report the ratio of school safety officers to guidance counselors in each school.

The bill, Torres said, has the support of the Council's Coalition of Young Men of Color, which includes Torres and his colleagues Council Members Antonio Reynoso, Donovan Richards, Rafael Espinal and Carlos Menchaca.

The legislation is an attempt to gauge the "imbalance of resources" in the education system, Torres told Gotham Gazette. "In order to solve the problem, we need to diagnose the problem," he said, indicating concern over there being too many police agents and not enough counselors in the city's schools.

The information gleaned from the DOE will help determine how resources are allocated toward punitive or restorative practices. Torres said he wants to address the "school-to-prison pipeline" created by disciplinary policies where suspensions lead to dropouts; with both leading young people to the criminal justice system. "Our public education system is defeating it's own purpose instead of putting [youth] on a path to a career," he said.

"The people to blame are not the teachers and administrators, but the politicians and bureaucrats who create these policies," Torres said.

Torres does commend Mayor Bill de Blasio for making a genuine effort toward reform. In February, the administration revised the school discipline code and established more careful punishments for certain student behavior, including the new requirement of approval from the Department of Education for student suspensions. "But it's important to match changes in policy with the investment of resources," said Torres. "A key part of the equation is access to restorative resources. It's about reforming the criminal justice system. If ever there was a time for reform, it's now."

A second bill to be discussed on Tuesday, introduced by Council Member David Greenfield, requires the police department to assign school safety agents to public and nonpublic schools that request them. And the third bill, sponsored by Council Member Vanessa Gibson, requires the schools chancellor to submit an annual report to the Council, also made available on the DOE website, on the discipline of students and the referral to emergency medical services for incidents related to disruptive behavior.

For advocates of reform, the package of bills is a move in the right direction. A number of groups including Make the Road New York and the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) are expected to testify at the hearing to show their support for both Torres' and Gibson's bills.

"[Council Member Torres' bill] gets at the heart of where schools are allocating resources," said Karen Farkas, senior staff attorney at Brooklyn Defender Services. Farkas deals with issues related to education and counsels students between 16- and 19-years-old.

"It's a knee-jerk reaction in communities and among lawmakers that safety is equated with the presence of safety agents," she said. "But my clients and students of color don't equate that with safety. It detracts from a positive community and school culture. It makes it harder for schools to be schools."

Many of her clients, Farkas said, come from communities that are already over-policed. "Schools should be a place where kids are given the benefit of the doubt, not considered bad or criminal."

Farkas believes Torres' bill could reveal the effects that fewer police agents and more positive counseling would have. She also praised the administration's recent steps for laying the groundwork and initiating discussions on restorative justice practices, whereby instead of being suspended from school, students work to make damaged relationships whole again. But, Farkas insisted that "Unless there's a whole school reform model, and it's done well, little piecemeal measures won't change the whole problem."

Shoshi Chowdhury, coordinator of the Dignity in Schools Campaign, said the bills would help provide more data and transparency, shedding light on school discipline. "The Student Safety Act of 2010 was the first time in New York City history that we started getting data on suspensions. But there was some data missing," she said. The amendments proposed in Gibson's bill are aimed to address these. At the hearing, members of Chowdhury's organization will testify along with students, parents, and educators.

Nick Sheehan, staff attorney at Advocates for Children, shares Chowdhury's view. Torres' bill, he said, would increase transparency "about how the City chooses to allocate its resources."

He went further, saying the bill should also add ratios of social workers and school psychologists to school safety agents, and the ratio of those staff members to students. He also agreed that Gibson's bill would address the limitations in the Student Safety Act. "They're technical tweaks, but they're important," he said.

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by Samar Khurshid, Gotham Gazette
@samarkhurshid

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Council Bills Aimed at Clarity, Improvement Around School Discipline and Support Mon, 13 Apr 2015 17:31:04 +0000
Outside Experts, Inside Employees Agree: Cuomo's Email Purge Misguided http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5618:outside-experts-inside-employees-agree-cuomos-email-purge-misguided http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5618:outside-experts-inside-employees-agree-cuomos-email-purge-misguided Cuomo

Gov. Cuomo (photo: Governor's Office via flickr)


Governor Andrew Cuomo's new 90-day email deletion policy for all state agencies is being met with widespread disapproval. Experts say it is terrible for transparency; the people who have to abide by the mandate say they don't feel qualified to implement it and that it isn't good for their productivity.

According to a number of state workers who spoke to Gotham Gazette on the condition of anonymity, regular work habits have been disrupted by the policy that sees emails purged after three months. They say that the policy costs them time because to abide by it they are forced to weigh the State's monumentally large email retention policy against the purge policy, and then ferret out and save important emails.

There is also concern that losing emails will disrupt workflow because employees won't be able to refer back to previous conversations by searching their inboxes, as people often do.

The State began the program after consolidating a myriad of email systems into Microsoft Office 365. Capital New York reported the start of the program last week. The program actually gives the administrator the ability to purge employee emails after one day. A coalition of technology- and transparency-minded groups including Reinvent Albany and the NYCLU wrote the governor last month to oppose implementation of the program, arguing that it would cripple Freedom of Information Act laws (FOIL).

"This policy was adopted without public notice or comment," reads the letter. "Furthermore, we are extremely concerned that the inevitable destruction of email records under your 90-day automatic deletion policy directly undermines other public accountability laws like the False Claims Act."

Cuomo's IT chief Maggie Miller was grilled about the policy during a budget hearing last week. She defended the policy, saying in part, "It's also a matter of, actually, encouraging good behavior, prudent and responsible use of state resources." In terms of concern over space issues and expense, Microsoft Office 365 offers decades worth of email retention.

The Cuomo administration has billed the deletion program as a way to improve efficiency, but workers say it's a hinderance and that they don't feel qualified to decide which emails should be saved in case of lawsuits or FOIL requests. "This just isn't my job," said one employee.

State rules pertaining to what emails should be saved are extensive - they take up 118 pages and 215 separate categories.

State Sen. Liz Krueger, a Democrat from Manhattan, told Gotham Gazette that she learned of the policy during that budget hearing and was "horrified."

"How many state employees understand the language in the policy about what should be preserved?" Kruger asked. "I asked three FOIL lawyers how complicated it is and whether a layman could interpret the rules and they laughed."

Krueger has a bill in the works that would overturn the 90-day policy and establish retention timelines for different areas of government. The bill would add electronic communication to the state's archive laws. She says her legislation will be complicated because it covers so many areas, but takes some inspiration from the Federal Capstone Email Management Policy. It would also make all branches of government, including the Legislature, subject to FOIL. Krueger said she expects bill drafting to be complete in about a week.

There is concern among some legislators and advocates who want to stop Cuomo's policy that Krueger's bill is too far-reaching to actually pass. One legislator told Gotham Gazette with condition of anonymity that they felt making the Legislature subject to FOIL is actually a "poison pill," and virtually guarantees it will not pass.

Krueger said that her bill is not designed as an attack on Cuomo. "I hope this is a situation where the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing. Maybe the governor made a mistake. This isn't a spat. I'm not here to go 'Ha, ha! I caught you screwing up!' I am here to repair [the situation] because I care about the democratic process."

Although the uproar over the policy has been sudden and sharp it isn't exactly surprising that the Cuomo administration implemented it. The administration is known for being extremely secretive, and has been working on the implementation of the program for years.

Zephyr Teachout, Cuomo's primary opponent from last year and author of a book on political corruption, has slammed the policy and pointed out that Cuomo is under federal investigation for tampering with The Moreland Commission on Public Corruption.

"Everyone knows that Albany - all of it, executive and legislative - has a corruption problem. Some of it's legal, some of it's illegal," Teachout told Gotham Gazette. " At this particular moment, with such low trust in Albany, there's no excuse for an email deletion policy. He should be opening the books, not burning them after three months. Transparency isn't the full answer. X-rays don't cure patients. But you need them to figure out what's going on."

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by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette
@DavidHowardKing

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Outside Experts, Inside Employees Agree: Cuomo's Email Purge Misguided Fri, 06 Mar 2015 00:45:01 +0000