Increase integration, diversity, and inclusion in New York City Schools
Our schools are stronger when they reflect the racial/ethnic identities and diversity of thought, backgrounds, and experiences of the communities they serve. We have made an effort to diversify our schools, with district-led initiatives currently underway in Districts 1, 13, and 15. However, increasing diversity in schools is not accomplished by simply reconfiguring a school’s demographic makeup. A 21st century school segregation problem will not be solved with 20th century solutions. We must move away from thinking that improving education through integration relies on a one-way stream of students of color being bused into predominantly white neighborhoods, or vice versa.
We recognize that creating truly diverse schools requires a long-term reckoning with the history of government-sanctioned redlining and the resulting entrenched housing patterns that determine the makeup of each school’s population, as well as improving the learning culture for students of color, ensuring all parts of a student’s identity are respected by school staff and reflected in the curriculums. The call for a broader approach to increasing diversity was a key finding by Mayor de Blasio and the School Diversity Advisory Group (SDAG), which formed in 2017, as a part of Equity and Excellence for All, to make policy recommendations to the Mayor and schools chancellor. In line with the report, we also realize the terms “diversity” and “identity” do not simply refer to race. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQ) students have historically been underserved in school environments, from un-affirming curriculums to suspensions, biased teachers, and bullying. Our goal is to ensure students of all gender identities and sexual orientations feel equally welcomed at school, respected by their school staff and peers, and have the tools to succeed in the classroom and beyond.
To increase inclusion and diversity, we will expand restorative practices that move away from disproportionate disciplinary action in favor of solutions that overcome conflict through equitable means. We will advance the inclusion of students of all gender identities and sexual orientations through affirming curriculums and anti-violence education. Teachers will be trained in how to create more equitable, culturally responsive curriculums, and confront their own implicit biases. Moreover, we are committed to supporting communities with developing diversity plans that best fit their needs through our school diversity grants programs.
Racial and ethnic makeup of New York City schools, by community school district
Source: DOE, 2017-2018
The Critically Conscious Educators Rising Series convenes a group of like-minded educators to focus on the pursuit of equity and racial justice in our classrooms. The group examines internal belief systems and biases, and analyzes equity research to develop culturally responsive lessons and units. Those will be shared at the Decolonizing Education Conference, cosponsored by the Expanded Success Initiative and New York University’s Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools.
Teaching is one of the most important and influential jobs in our society. As such, it is imperative that teachers are aware of their own implicit biases and actively resist the impulse to bring socially constructed prejudices and traditions of inequitable treatment into the classroom. This promotes more caring and compassionate teachers and safer classrooms, facilitates relationship-building between students and teachers, and creates spaces where students can feel safe and take intellectual risks. To that end, the City will invest $23 million in implicit bias training for all teachers, reaching far beyond just schools with disproportionate suspension and discipline trends.
Because all students benefit from diverse and inclusive schools and classrooms, we are committed to creating and supporting learning environments that reflect the diversity of New York City. Increasing the enrollment of students from varied socioeconomic and racial/ethnic backgrounds in demographically homogeneous schools is an important part of our commitment to diversity. While this alone is not sufficient to achieve an inclusive school system, efforts should be made toward diversifying enrollment across schools. That’s why we launched a $2 million grant program in fall 2018 to help support grassroots, district-level efforts to develop diversity plans. Plans are also being developed in Districts 1, 3, and 15 to engage communities to create diversity plans tailored to their needs. Those may include opening a family resource center to support families in the school application process, providing more equitable access to low-income and lower-performing students, or eliminating academic screens for middle school admissions.
We believe children learn best when they’re in the classroom. Yet for too many students, especially those who are black or Hispanic, youthful misbehaviors result in suspensions and other punitive discipline practices instead of serving as an opportunity to learn, make amends, and ultimately feel closer to and more supported by their school community. Restorative justice practice is an effective, sustainable, and equitable alternative to punitive and racially marginalizing discipline practices, and helps students develop character, problem-solve, and build better relationships with all members of their school community. Piloted by DOE during the 2016–2017 school year in District 18, the program led to a 25 percent decline in suspensions, compared with 6 percent citywide, at the end of 2017. Restorative justice practices have also been funded in schools across three districts. Through open community dialogue, and acknowledgement of their emotions — rather than punitive and academically detrimental exclusion from school — students are given space to learn how to assess harm, practice self-regulation, repair relationships, overcome conflict, and refine their social-emotional skills. As a result, students and their school communities are able to move forward from every incident in a stronger and more supportive learning environment.
Restorative justice practices activate social-emotional learning skills by teaching students how to solve problems and repair relationships.
New York City schools are at the forefront of efforts to create a safe and supportive environment for students of all gender expressions and identities. Examples of this work include providing access to resources for transgender and gender non-binary students, and sexual health education that affirms students of all gender expressions, identities, and sexual orientations. With these efforts, we combat gender-based biases, from relationship abuse to transphobic policies, that act as barriers to receiving an excellent education.
Implementing Health Ed Works
Comprehensive sexual health education is fundamental to the wellness of students. Our programs incorporate medically accurate, affirming, age-appropriate, and culturally competent information about anatomy, physiology, family involvement, personal safety, healthy relationships, sexually transmitted infections such as HIV, contraceptives, sexual orientation, pregnancy, media navigation and literacy, and more. In 2018, the City launched Health Ed Works, a four-year, $24 million initiative to increase comprehensive, medically accurate, and age-appropriate health education resources for students. The program provides additional professional-development opportunities for teachers, increases family and community engagement around health education, and offers individualized support to 500 targeted schools.
- Supporting LGBTQ Students, Families, and Staff
LGBTQ youth experience nearly twice as much bullying on school property as cisgender and heterosexual youth, and are more than twice as likely to attempt suicide. LGBTQ youth of color may also experience stress related to racism and discrimination. Supporting all students, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, is a key part of our mission to ensure Equity and Excellence for All.To achieve this goal, DOE’s Office of Counseling Support Programs has hired an LGBT community liaison and gender equity coordinator to expand supports for the community. These programs include:
- Community Based Resources
The LGBT Advisory Council, established in 2014, solves issues of LGBTQ inequity across the five boroughs. The Council’s 40 partners include community based organizations, City agencies, and DOE offices.
- Supportive Adults
To date, the LGBTQ community liaison and gender equity coordinators have trained more than 4,000 school-based and central staff members. Through funding from the City Council, more than 450 school-based staff members were trained at the annual Sexuality, Women, and Gender (SWAG) Conference. Because students who feel supported are more likely to attend school, we have implemented the OUT for Safe Schools program, which allows teachers to identify themselves as visible allies by wearing a badge in school, and has been rolled out to hundreds of staff citywide.
- Inclusive Policies
DOE has been a leader in creating policies supporting LGBTQ students. In March 2014, DOE released its first-ever Transgender Student Guidelines. In March 2017, the Department issued expanded and updated transgender and gender non-conforming student guidelines in collaboration with City agencies and community-based organizations. We are committed to recognizing and supporting our trans students and ensuring they receive an equitable education.
- Affirming Curriculums
Students with access to developmentally appropriate curriculum resources that include LGBTQ content are less likely to be bullied or called names. Through funding from the City Council, schools have been able to participate in the Lambda Literary LGBTQ Writers in Schools Program. The inaugural program paired 80 teachers with an LGBTQ author, provided copies of all of that author’s books, and brought the author into the classroom.
- LGBTQ Student Clubs
Clubs such as gender and sexuality alliances (GSAs) create spaces for LGBTQ students to socialize, support one another, and advocate for inclusive practices in their schools. These clubs have a positive impact on school climate and culture: Schools that offer GSAs report lower incidences of bullying and harassment based on sexual orientation. DOE is committed to identifying and strengthening GSAs, and supports the creation of new clubs in schools. As part of this work, DOE offered an annual GSA summit,attended by more than 1,500 middle and high school students.