Good news/bad news time: on the plus side, there were fewer overall suspensions at city schools last year over the previous year. But on the negative side, dozens of 4- and 5-year-olds were among those who were suspended. "It's hard to fathom any reason why nineteen 4-year-olds would be suspended from school by a competent educational system," New York Civil Liberties Union executive director Donna Lieberman told the News. Seriously: four-year-olds, dude.
Lieberman was referring to Public School 189 in Manhattan in particular, which handed out 19 suspensions to kindergartners last year. Some of those involved kids who were allegedly caught touching and kissing each other in the Washington Heights school. Two parents of kids in the class filed notices of claim against the city, each seeking $5 million in damages, alleging the sexual behavior occurred since last September.
“That is so unfair for those kids,” said Josephine Aspha, mother of a PS 189 second-grader. “I witnessed teachers and staff yelling at other kids [on a recent day]. I understand kids can be kids, but it was kind of chaotic,” she said, adding that she wished the school could deal with behavioral problems without resorting to suspensions.
Lieberman also noted that minorities and kids with special needs were more often the targets of discipline. Black kids served 53% of the suspensions, despite representing only 28% of the city’s students; and students with disabilities served 32% of suspensions despite only making up 12% of the student population. "These are statistics that have failure written all over them," Lieberman said.