Report: New York City Charter Schools Discipline Rules Violate Students’ Rights

By Julianne Hing Feb 13, 2015

New York City charter schools’ harsh discipline policies violate city standards and state law, researchers at the New York City group Advocates for Children (PDF) found. A new report, released Thursday, details a troubling narrative: the joyful relief families feel over their children’s admission to a charter school soon gives way to frustration and confusion when their students are suspended, and then often summarily expelled by those same charter schools that promise extra supports for students.

In their review of 164 New York City charter schools, researchers found that 107 had policies that allow for the suspension or even expulsion of a student who violates any part of the school’s discipline code, regardless of the infraction. Even though charter schools are exempt from these regulations, the New York City Department of Education stipulates that children under 17 and those with disabilities are not allowed to be expelled, and forces schools to make punishments proportional to the type of infraction.

For 133 of 164 city charter schools, administrators are not required to offer a written notice prior to the suspension of a child. New York state law requires such a notice. Thirty-six of 164 New York City charter schools have no extra protocols for dealing with the suspension or expulsion of students with disabiliites, also in violation of state and federal law. 

Further compounding the difficulties of understanding the full scope of the issue is the fact that state law does not disclose the number of students whom charter schools expel, according to AFC. But, AFC says, even those data would be incomplete as the organization works with many parents who say charter schools urge them to remove their children in order to avoid expulsion–something that’d be harmful and embarrassing to both parties. 

"We hear from parents who celebrated winning the charter-school lottery only to have their students face repeated suspension or expulsion from school with no opportunity to challenge it," Paulina Davis, a staff attorney for Advocates for Children, said in a release. "Students do not give up their civil rights when they enter charter schools." AFC released the report with recommendations for lawmakers to force charter schools to comply with city and state policies.