Monday, May 19, 2014

UFT Contract - What's Missing - How About Discipline?

The amount of short-sighted "trust" the UFT/Unity crowd is giving this administration is astounding. We have learned from almost 50 years in the UFT - if it's not in the contract, there are no guarantees -- even if it's in the contract, many have learned that the loose language and loopholes allows the DOE to drive truck bigger than Godzilla through.

FariƱa said that she wanted to see schools reform their discipline policies to focus on restorative justice, not suspension.--NY Daily News, NY Post ....Chalkbeat

I cheer Farina for this initiative. BUT.....The contract with a golden chance to encode some permanent solutions on the discipline issue failed to address any recourse that would protect teachers and children for the day Carmen is not there anymore. Or de Blasio either.

Or even while they are there we have so many principals that blame the teachers for everything and provide no support, there is a need in the contract to protect teachers.

Read Laurel Sturt's "Davonte's Inferno" for a horror story of 4 principals over 8 years not lifting a finger. Here was the opportunity to give teachers some control over the piece of crap principal -- how about a contract item that if a certain percentage of the staff signs a petition on discipline issues in a school the DOE will send in people to monitor?

I'm not talking about harsh discipline but a system to manage discipline. [I was saved in my early days by an amazing AP named Norman Jehrenberg -- a hard ass guy who once he thought you were really trying provides support by removing any child I needed removed for a cooling off period - and it worked - for me. He would show up within 10 minutes - and once he did a few times I didn't have to use him again.]

The amount of short-sighted "trust" the UFT/Unity crowd is giving this administration is astounding. We have learned from almost 50 years in the UFT - if it's not in the contract, there are no guarantees -- even if it's in the contract, many have learned that the loose language and loopholes allows the DOE to drive truck bigger than Godzilla through.

One of the biggest complaints you hear from teachers is around the discipline issue - a lot of it about lack of support from administrators. On the other end we hear about the other end of the stick - harsh no excuses from the charter schools.

I have always opposed suspending students and never once asked a supervisor to do so. I felt that was a defeat. Since the kid always was coming back I knew I had to have a permanent solution - and I usually found one. But let's leave that for another time.

The articles in the Post and News doesn't give Restorative Justice its due. I instinctually used some of the concepts in my classes to resolve things. I taught in a high poverty area and I was lucky - discipline was easy for me. But the administrations I had were supportive - except in my 3rd year of teaching when we had a fairly new principal who didn't have a clue -- and I left that school partially because I didn't feel he supported teachers on discipline.

I hope that Farina works with the Teachers Unite crew on this initiative. Sally Lee and the gang have been doing fabulous work on restorative justice and the DOE should consider funding them to expand their work. [I am very proud to have been one of the first 5 people to join TU].


  1. I've said basically the same thing since reading the contract. The only thing being touted is the money and even that is unsatisfactory. Suspensions are down through out the city, not because the students are better or are getting needed help. They are down because schools will not suspend students out of fear of bringing their stats down. Some of the lowest suspension rates in the city are from the worse schools (ie, Wings, Dodge under Hernandez, etc.). The worst students take this as cart blanche to escalate the behavior. Usually the offending principal will be promoted to a network position ( wings, dodge, etc.) and the poor schmuck who comes in has to clean up. This is going on right now. Teachers and students are afraid. Farina should not be penalizing principals or schools for suspending students. In fact she should be strenghtening the discipline code. The fact that she said she wants restorative justice tells me she doesnt understand the problem and could make it worse.

  2. Thanks for the shout-out Norm! Just so your readers are clear: Teachers Unite is the only educator organization in the Dignity in Schools Campaign-New York (DSC-NY).

    The DSC-NY, a youth-led coalition, has been meeting with DOE to discuss the need to mandate guidance interventions before suspensions, provide trainings to staff, and end suspensions for defying or disobeying authority—a minor misbehavior that is the second most common reason for suspensions and, as you can imagine, results in an alarming disproportionate punishment of Black and Latino students as well as those with disabilities.

    TU’s presence in those meetings has been consistent, but always in a supporting role to young people of color. Dozens of our members, all UFT members, have participated in the campaign’s planning as well as the campaign’s discussions with DOE and UFT staff. I say this to be clear that “Sally and the gang” doesn’t really sum it up! I actually have never been to these meetings with officials, not only because I like to rush home to my young sons at the end of the day, but because it’s important that UFT members are the ones voicing their support of DSC-NY demands—and imploring UFT staff, who are accountable to the membership, to come around on this issue as an authentic ally to the youth who are most impacted by the racial injustice of policing and harsh punishment.

    Also, there is a campaign demand that is particularly close to Teachers Unite’s heart for the very reasons you mention in your post. DSC-NY is calling on the DOE to fully fund and support implementation of the following five key elements of school-wide restorative practices starting at 20 schools this September:

    1. A Full-time Position of Restorative Coordinator, with the sole focus of coordinating a positive, restorative climate and approach to discipline at the school, including overseeing implementation of the other four key elements below (in the case of campus schools where multiple small schools share the same building, the budget should allow for one coordinator per school, not one per campus).

    2. A School-wide Strategic Plan with participation of all school stakeholders that integrates pre-existing behavior-related strategies, such as Fairness Committees, conflict resolution, peer mediation and peer mentoring, into a restorative framework and set of values, and integrates that framework into existing school structures, such as advisory periods, town hall meetings, after school programs, and School Leadership Teams.

    3. Ongoing Training for All Stakeholders, including faculty, counselors and other school employees, School Safety Agents, and a core group of student and parent leaders who can develop the skills to train their peers.

    4. Youth and Parent Leadership in the process of planning and implementing restorative practices in school, such as forming Student Leadership Councils, engaging students and parents to be a part of trainings for school staff, and engaging students in producing videos, skits, posters and other materials to promote restorative approaches among their peers.

    5. Systematic Collection and Monitoring of Data in collaboration with administrators, faculty, students and parents to develop a common set of indicators and protocols for collecting data to help understand the implementation and results of restorative practices in the pilot schools.

    You can read more about how we outline this kind of whole school support, and examples of it in action, in our case study found here:

    We are promoting and supporting the philosophy and practice of restorative justice school by school, because we know while it’s important to have support for these shifts come from the top—nothing’s going to work unless the rank-and-file educators, parents and students are making changes from the ground up. I invite your readers who are UFT members to join us at TU in order to augment the voices of educators speaking out against the damaging and racist impact of punitive discipline policies.


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