June 20, 2019
Partnership with Sanford Harmony program to expand Social-Emotional Learning support to all NYC elementary schools; 85 clinical social workers to provide earlier intervention for students in need; all high schools and middle schools to receive Restorative Justice training; NYC Schools to keep suspensions below 20 days in most cases except those that involve serious or violent incidents
NEW YORK—Mayor Bill de Blasio, First Lady Chirlane McCray and Schools Chancellor Richard A. Carranza today announced for the first time in New York City’s history that all students will have access to Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) and Restorative Justice (RJ) practices and, when needed, earlier intervention from clinical social workers. The investment is designed to help school communities be more proactive in changing school culture and climate. The Department of Education will provide all elementary schools with access to an SEL curriculum in partnership with National University System’s Sanford Harmony program. It will also build RJ practices into all middle and high schools, providing students with the tools they need to name their emotions, overcome conflicts and repair relationships.
“We’ve heard from students, teachers and parents across our city, and as a result, we’re revolutionizing our school system and giving our kids the social-emotional tools they need to ensure they develop into healthy adults,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “I’m proud that New York City is leading the way in our schools, using research-backed methods that encourage the whole growth of every student.”
“To prepare New York City students for the future we must do more to make sure they are able to learn while they are in the classroom. We have a responsibility to make sure our young people have the life skills to navigate their world inside and outside of the classroom and continue developing into healthy adults,” said First Lady Chirlane McCray. “This new approach will help us educate the whole child and create a more positive school climate with greater supports for our educators.”
“It's common sense: when we keep students in the classroom and help them feel safe and supported in their schools, they will succeed,” said Schools Chancellor Richard A. Carranza. “We’re doubling down on an approach that we know works — giving our teachers the resources to support our students’ social-emotional skills and well-being, and, as a result, driving down suspensions and improving outcomes. I thank Mayor de Blasio and First Lady McCray for their leadership, and I'm excited to get to work on this next step of our children's agenda.”
“We are proud of the joint efforts between the Department of Education and the New York City Police Department to keep our young people safe in schools,” said Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill. “This agreement memorializes best practices that the Police Department and the Department of Education have developed over the last twenty years. With reductions in both index crime and enforcement action in New York City schools, the NYPD School Safety Division continues to focus on supporting students’ success in every school building.”
“The time has come to stop reacting, to stop having to scramble to help students after the fact,” said Michael Mulgrew, President of the United Federation of Teachers. “We need a proactive approach, and hopefully today is the start of getting the right resources to our educators so we can change the school climate for all students and staff.”
“New York City has set a new standard for empowering youth,” said Patrick J. Kennedy, former Congressman and Founder of the Kennedy Forum. “Social-Emotional skills are absolutely critical, both to academic success and overall health and well-being. Rather than relying on discipline to ‘treat the symptoms’ of poor communication skills, disconnectedness, inability to manage emotions, and more, these programs prioritize prevention strategies with long-term impact. It’s exactly what we need, especially as our country struggles with mental health and addiction crises. My hope is that other cities will take notice of this exemplary leadership and follow suit.”
“For years, young people have fought to end the school-to-prison pipeline and make schools more supportive and inclusive,” said Rikya Theresa Kee, Youth Leader with Urban Youth Collaborative. “Through most of my school experience, I felt isolated. My schools did not have the resources they needed to support me, like restorative practices. Today’s announcement to expand restorative justice, hire more social workers, and propose changing the discipline code gives me hope that the city is listening to our voices and moving in the right direction. Now, we must move to fully end racial disparities and the criminalization of young people in our schools. We still have work to do.”
“Through Sanford Harmony, the National University System is pleased to express our commitment to advancing this collaborative effort in support of safer schools and student success,” said Dr. Michael R. Cunningham, Chancellor of the National University System. “Social-emotional learning helps even the youngest students to develop skills in communication and collaboration, reducing conflict and fostering positive school climates that encourage academic achievement. Today’s announcement ensures that all elementary students in New York City have access to the powerful, evidence-based program, a vision of philanthropist T. Denny Sanford, to encourage positive relationships from the classroom to adulthood.”
In collaboration with the United Federation of Teachers, 50 middle schools will receive more intensive programming through the Positive Learning Collaborative model, a restorative approach to changing school climate. This work will be enhanced, thanks to the New York City Council, with a new Thrive initiative of 85 borough-based licensed clinical social workers specifically designed to support teachers and directly help students facing emotional distress from the point of crisis to a handoff to long-term care, if necessary.
SEL has been proven to improve students’ academic performance by prioritizing communication, empathy and problem solving. RJ builds on the SEL continuum by training students to practice their social-emotional learning skills in everyday life both inside and outside the classroom. The DOE will now have an SEL continuum in grades Pre-K-12.
The DOE also announced its revised Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the NYPD and DOE, updates to the NYPD Patrol Guide that would significantly limit situations where in-school arrests for out-of-school incidents are allowed, and proposed changes to the DOE discipline code to keep suspensions below 20 days in most cases except those that involve serious or violent incidents.
The partnership with Sanford Harmony will provide elementary schools citywide access to an SEL curriculum for the first time. SEL curricula build on successful existing RJ models in Districts 5, 12, 16 and 18 which recognize that students don’t simply learn math and English during their education, but that their time at school shapes how they interact with other people and themselves. Through intra- and interpersonal relationship lessons and activities, SEL helps students develop better control of their feelings and social skills to complement the academic lessons learned in classrooms.
Aspects of SEL are already part of the City’s universal Pre-K programs, where students learn to identify and communicate their emotions and deal with stress. Now, elementary schools will receive training and materials relevant for students at every grade level. Lessons and activities include daily meet-ups for students to engage with each other and a “buddy-up” system for students to learn how to get along with others.
Middle and high schools across the city will reinforce SEL tenets by implementing Restorative Justice practices. RJ practices de-emphasize the reliance on solely traditional punitive discipline. Instead, students are also encouraged to activate SEL skills by focusing on emotion identification, conflict resolution and problem solving. The use of these skills becomes part of a school’s daily practice. Students are trained to become leaders in their own lives and adults are trained in the restorative framework, recognizing that outside factors often have significant impacts on a student’s day-to-day response, and those responses must be addressed through multiple approaches. RJ helps develop the proactive use of SEL to reduce issues of conflict within the school.
Additionally, 50 of the City’s middle schools will take part in Positive Learning Collaborative (PLC) programming, a restorative approach to school climate developed in collaboration with the United Federation of Teachers. All 50 schools will receive training in Therapeutic Crisis Intervention for Schools (TCIS) and additional support in an area of need. A smaller cadre of schools will become partner schools, and in addition to TCIS training will also receive on-site coaching, support to implement community circles and access to a behavior specialist who will guide them in the process. The goal is to help every adult in a PLC school—from teachers to custodians to principals—cultivate strong relationships with students so school communities can short-circuit many problems before they start and prevent others from escalating.
Several additional noteworthy reforms will be enacted as part of the new school climate package, including:
The Sanford Harmony elementary school program is an evidence-based, nationally recognized curriculum that builds stronger classroom communities through relationship-building lessons and activities. The program will be managed in partnership with National University; to help implement the program here, a new NYC-based team will work closely with the NYC Department of Education and Long Island University while drawing on Sanford Harmony’s national network of trainers and coaches. To date, Sanford Harmony has trained over 8,000 NYC teachers. Sanford Harmony has committed $5.8 million to this expansion.
Districts that have used Sanford Harmony so far have found that students display more empathy and develop stronger relationships with their peers, improving school climate. Explicit SEL enhances student-teacher communication and improves academic achievement.
Additionally, DOE has piloted universal restorative justice programs in all schools in District 18 (which includes Flatbush and Canarsie) since School Year 2015-16. The District has seen double-digit decreases in suspensions during the program. In the first year of the pilot, District 18 saw a 25 percent decrease in suspensions. Last year, it saw another 11 percent decrease. The racial disparity in suspensions has also fallen in the district compared to the citywide ratio. Citywide, black students are 2.6 times as likely to be suspended compared to their peers, but in District 18, they are only 1.2 times as likely. Replicating the model used in District 18 presents an opportunity to respond to similar challenges with both locally and nationally evidence-based practices.
The entire school climate package will roll out over three years, with schools citywide divided into three cohorts and receiving services on a rolling basis.
“As our City has shown time and again, government is capable of advancing big ideas – swiftly and at scale – but the public sector can’t do it all, and we can’t do it alone, which makes partnerships like the one with Sanford Harmony so important and powerful,” said Darren Bloch, Senior Advisor to the Mayor and Director of the Office of Strategic Partnerships. “Thanks to the support of T. Denny Sanford, National University and Long Island University, all elementary students will now have access to a profound set of tools to help them strive and thrive in school and beyond.”
“Restorative justice processes are a powerful method to improve student relationships and ultimately reduce the likelihood of serious conflicts,” said Director of the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice Elizabeth Glazer. “MOCJ will continue to support innovative school models and look forward to working with our agency partners and education stakeholders to generate additional solutions to make our schools more just and safe places for all.”
“All of our students need to know they are not alone and there are people who can help them,” Board of Regents Chancellor Betty A. Rosa. “I applaud Chancellor Carranza’s commitment to promoting a positive school climate and learning, which enhance the whole child, the whole school and the whole community. Social Emotional Learning is key to our efforts to foster equity under the state’s ESSA plan, as it goes hand in hand with the work being done in schools every day to better academic performance, improve school climate and reduce exclusionary discipline.”
“The quality of school climate is one of the most predictive factors in promoting school achievement,” said State Education Commissioner Mary Ellen Elia. “Chancellor Carranza’s renewed focus on these critically important school climate elements mirrors our efforts across the state to promote positive school climate, which has been shown to result in a lower incidence of student absenteeism, suspensions and substance abuse. New York stands with New York City in its focus on ensuring that schools are safe havens for students and their teachers, where they are free to teach and to continually grow together.”
“New York City students deserve to be empowered so they can thrive in our schools. Through this program, Social-Emotional Learning and Restorative Justice practices are transforming students’ lives and helping them find success, as we’ve seen with students in my District. I am glad to see NYC is expanding this program to embolden more school kids throughout the city,” said Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke.
“As a former classroom teacher, I understand how critical it is to invest in the social and emotional aspects of a child’s education. That’s why I commend the Mayor for expanding New York City’s education system to include these new classes. Accounting for the mental health of students provides them with the ability to achieve both inside and outside the classroom. In addition, the Mayor’s plan to reform the Department of Education disciplinary code is an important step in the right direction. Schools are for teaching and learning, not arresting students to further the school to prison pipeline. I am pleased the city has recognized these realities and offered a proposal to better our public schools,” said Congressman Eliot Engel.
“I am very excited that New York City will be bringing social-emotional wellness and restorative justice practices to the fore of our children's education,” said State Senator Robert Jackson. “Research backs up the benefits of these approaches, especially among working-class communities of color where students have for too long been over-disciplined by suspensions and criminalized in ways that perpetuate cycles of oppression. I look forward to seeing these programs expand to cover all children in New York City in the coming years. This is an important step in the direction of a brighter educational future for our young people.”
"For too long, our schools have over-relied on punishment and under-invested in social support,” said State Senator Zellnor Y. Myrie. “As a result, black and brown students are too often funneled into the school-to-prison pipeline for incidents that could have been addressed with counselors rather than cops. The expansion of SEL and Restorative Justice in our schools is a step toward recognizing the dignity and potential of every single student; expanding their future rather than trapping them in their past. I am encouraged by this effort and look forward to building on this momentum."
“As the sponsor of state legislation on this important topic, I applaud the Mayor and Chancellor's efforts to make schools safe and welcoming environments for all of our students,” said Assembly Member Cathy Nolan. “Schools must be places where students feel comfortable and can learn properly, and I look forward to working with our schools, students and families on this important issue at both the city and state level.”
“For too long, black and brown children have been made to feel like second class citizens in their own schools and classrooms. Children cannot learn in environments where they do not feel safe and respected” said Assembly Member Diana Richardson. “I commend the Mayor and Chancellor for taking this important step forward. I look forward to working with them to ensure this is just the start to changing a school discipline system that has not treated our children fairly.”
“Reforming the NYC school discipline process is a subject of extreme importance to me as Black girls in NYC are nine times as likely to be suspended in comparison to their white counterparts,” said Assembly Member Latrice Walker. “This mayoral initiative continues a conversation my colleagues and I in Albany have had about addressing children and understanding the social-emotional learning challenges many of our inner-city school children face. This is a good first step and I look forward to working with the city to implement further restorative practices and continue the push at the statewide level.”
“Today the Mayor and City Council showed that they agree with my assessment that the mental health of New York City students is a priority by passing a budget that included $30 million for 285 social workers for New York City students,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “It’s a great first step toward my goal of at least one full-time social worker in every school. School-based social workers make a huge impact, and I’ll continue to work to ensure direct access to mental health care for New York’s students.”
“Social and emotional learning is an important way to ensure we are taking a whole-child approach to education. Children cannot perform well in school if they’re dealing with trauma and conflict in their lives. That’s why I have been proud to support mindfulness as a start to the school day for students, joining with Chancellor Carranza and Council Member Espinal earlier this year to announce the Yoga and Mindfulness Teacher Preparation Program. I have also been proud to facilitate groundbreaking participatory budgeting projects at two high school campuses in Brooklyn this year that work off of the concept of encouraging restorative justice practices. These steps will make a positive difference in the lives of our children, and I applaud the Mayor and the First Lady for their steadfast advocacy,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams.
“Students need more social and emotional supports, not punitive disciplinary measures – and I’ve been proud to join with advocates, especially our powerful youth voices, to make sure the welfare of our students is the city’s top priority. The new school climate MOU is a positive step forward to implement social and emotional supports, which includes providing crucial Restorative Justice training that will offer vital mechanisms for conflict resolution and increasing the number of licensed clinical social workers available to students. It’s also very important that this MOU will limit NYPD activity in schools so that there will not be arrests in schools for low-level offenses. In addition, the number of days allowed for suspensions will be limited, which helps ensure our students do not have long disruptions to their education,” said Council Member Mark Treyger, Chair of the Committee on Education. “I commend Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Carranza for their efforts to implement the MOU and institute more social and emotional supports throughout our school system, and I’m so proud of our students for advocating for these important and necessary changes.”
“Throughout the last school year, students across the city have sent the clear message to City Hall and the City Council that more counseling and services are what they need to feel safer in schools, not more law enforcement,” said Council Member Donovan Richards, Chair of the Committee on Public Safety. “Thankfully, today’s announcement shows that those voices did not fall on deaf ears as the Department of Education is now dedicating their efforts on social-emotional learning and restorative justice as opposed to punitive justice. Students should never be taken out of a classroom in handcuffs or for extended periods of time as a form of punishment as those actions are prohibitive to solving each student’s problems. I’m proud to work for a City Council that has funded hundreds of social workers to get at the root of individual student issues and am thankful that Mayor de Blasio, Chancellor Carranza and Commissioner O’Neill have come to an agreement on the best path forward for our youth who deal with so many issues at home, in schools and in their community.”
“Black and Latinx students have been disproportionately impacted by policing in our schools. This agreement will help reduce the interactions between police and students, while leading to profound investments in Social-Emotional Learning and Restorative Justice practices,” said Council Member Diana Ayala, Chair of the City Council’s Committee on Mental Health, Disabilities, and Addiction. “I thank Mayor de Blasio, Chancellor Carranza, and First Lady McCray for pursuing these efforts, which will ensure our students can learn in safe, supportive spaces.”
“These newly adopted Social-Emotional Learning and Restorative Justice practices will move our public schools forward by leaps and bounds,” said Council Member Daniel Dromm. “Our schools must be safe, nurturing places for all students, and this effort brings us closer toward achieving that goal. I am pleased that the administration is embracing this progressive approach to school discipline and learning, something for which my colleagues and I have long advocated. As someone who taught in a NYC public school for over two decades, I thank the Mayor, the First Lady and the Chancellor for prioritizing this important effort.”
“Students, parents, and elected officials have fought long and hard to break the school to prison pipeline in New York City,” said Council Member Antonio Reynoso. “A safe learning environment that is sensitive to cultural and emotional needs is the foundation to keeping our kids in classrooms where they belong and not behind bars. I thank Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Carranza for their newly announced investment in social-emotional learning supports, an expanded restorative justice curriculum, and changes to suspension protocol. Let’s continue to listen to our youth and provide what they need to thrive.”
Council Member Alicka Ampry Samuel said, “This is one of the reasons why I love being a New Yorker. Today’s announcement of program initiatives directed towards Social Emotional Learning will be a game changer for our school systems. Education isn’t only about academics, this addresses the whole child. I’m glad NYC is leading the way to address the many needs of our youth in order to provide the support they need to succeed in school and in life.”
“This newly announced school climate package contains demands that students, parents, and educators have been organizing around for years,” said Kate McDonough, Director of Dignity in Schools Campaign-NY. “It is a big step forward in creating the schools that young people deserve.”
“Instituting Restorative Justice, increasing social emotional supports, and dismantling punitive discipline in New York City's schools are critical and necessary steps forward in both addressing systemic racism and ensuring justice for our youth”, said Jennifer Jones, CEO of the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies. “Today’s announcement evidences a sincere commitment to improving educational and life outcomes for our students, especially those who’ve been disproportionately impacted by disparate practices in the past.”
“Today, the Mayor, First Lady, and Chancellor have shown that they are accountable to schools, parents, and students by making system level change that focuses on building stronger students through increased mental health supports and restorative justice to our schools. These changes bring our school communities and city leadership closer to Justice and Equality,” said Dr. Hazel N. Dukes, President of the NAACP New York State Conference.
“We applaud the Mayor, First Lady, and the Chancellor for not shying away from their responsibility to our city’s future and addressing the social and emotional needs of our youth across all of our New York City schools,” said Frankie Miranda, Executive Vice President of Hispanic Federation. “For too long we have watched policies centered on punitive measures derail the academic futures of students and, in some instances, contribute to a school to prison pipeline. Today’s announcement provides the opportunity to address the real and unique challenges that our youth, especially our Latino and black students, are facing in an increasingly challenging societal and political climate. Through increased access to counselors and social workers, and less reliance on law enforcement and detention, the city will be doing more to ensure a safe and productive school environment that will keep students on track to graduation and postsecondary success.”
“Today’s announcement by the mayor on the expansion of support for socioemotional learning/education, the scaling and capacity building for restorative practices, and the overhaul of how police operate in schools is game-changing,” said David Kirkland of the NYU Metro Center. “Scholars, youth organizers, and civil rights advocates have long pressed for the implementation of a critical sequence of reforms that value and affirm the humanity of our students. The mayor’s announcement is a win not only for those who have demanded more school counselors, less in-school arrests, and greater attention to the non-cognitive aspects of education, but also for a city positioned to lead the country in our collective effort to advance equity and justice in education. This is a clear statement in a long and continuing conversation about how education both requires dignity and those of us who do education work to grapple with hard questions about how to make schools work outside the peculiar and insidious impulse to exclude, criminalize, vilify, and pass blame. Of course, there remains significant work ahead of us; however, because of today’s announcement, we are in a better position to move this work and this conversation forward.”
“The DOE's new initiative to reduce suspensions through efforts to promote Social and Emotional Learning and Restorative Justice is sensible and long overdue,” said Pedro A. Noguera, PhD, Faculty Director for the Center for the Transformation of Schools at the UCLA Graduate School of Education & Information Studies. “Schools can be safe and orderly without excluding students who misbehave from learning opportunities. By addressing the cause of behavior problems and improving the culture and climate of schools, suspensions can be used as a last resort rather than the primary discipline strategy. If implemented well the DOE strategy will help schools to create an environment where teaching and learning can flourish while simultaneously increasing support to our most vulnerable students.”
“Police presence in schools and a zero-tolerance disciplinary approach make students feel like criminals in their own classrooms,” said Johanna Miller, Director of the Education Policy Center at NYCLU. “Today’s announcement is about treating kids like kids, allowing them to recover from mistakes, and teaching them the tools to manage emotions and behavior. By adopting these recommendations from the Leadership Team, the City is taking real a step toward ending the School to Prison Pipeline.”
“The Children’s Defense Fund – New York commends the Mayor and Chancellor for taking tremendous steps to advance education justice,” said Naomi Post, Executive Director of the Children’s Defense Fund – New York. “Strengthening access to restorative practices and social-emotional learning, clarifying the role of police in schools, and proposing real changes to the Discipline Code will move us much closer to addressing pervasive discipline disparities. We are optimistic that these initiatives will promote the conditions necessary to sustain positive school climates and transform learning throughout the city.”
“I am gratified that my peers and I will have someone to talk to rather than someone to talk at us. Progress is being made to support all students, but specifically Black and Latinx students who have been disproportionately penalized in schools,” said Marcus Altson, a Junior at Pace High School and a member of Teens Take Charge and Organizing For Equity NY. “Social-Emotional Learning and Restorative Justice practices are an important step to ending the school to prison pipeline. However, there is still work to do to ensure that schools are places where all students feel supported and safe.”
“Students belong in their classrooms, with their teachers and peers,” said Ben West-Weyner, Co-Coordinator, Organizing For Equity NY. “This citywide move toward Restorative Justice and away from exclusion will support educators in fostering the loving school communities that our children deserve.”
“It is exciting that our community children and youth will be engaged academically and emotionally,” said Pia J. Raymond, CEO of Creating Legacies. “I am confident that the holistic approach to education, including the significant addition of licensed social workers to our schools and modified implementation of school safety procedure with the NYPD is invaluable in building dynamic, self-aware and astute young leaders. I applaud Mayor Bill de Blasio, First Lady Chirlane McCray and Chancellor Richard A. Carranza for their Social-Emotional Learning and Restorative Justice initiative to empower students, teachers, faculty and families across New York City.”
“CCC applauds Mayor de Blasio for making these critical commitments to NYC’s students,” said Jennifer March, Executive Director of Citizens’ Committee for Children. “The multi-pronged strategies announced today will go a long way toward combatting the school-to-prison pipeline and keeping more students safe and in school. CCC supports efforts to invest in Social-Emotional curricula and Restorative Justice practices as well those aimed at reducing suspensions and arrests in schools. Together, these actions will help students feel safe, welcomed, and supported in schools. CCC welcomes the opportunity to work with the Department of Education to implement and expand upon these important proposals.”
“With most mental illnesses beginning during childhood, it is essential that we offer children and schools the tools they need to move all children toward greater mental health and, for those who need them, pathways to recovery instead of incarceration,” said Paul Gionfriddo, President and CEO, Mental Health America. “This is a visionary plan that will make a huge difference, and can serve as an example to other communities and public officials.”
“We have had a long and valued relationship with New York City beginning with First Lady Chirlane McCray’s commitment to Mental Health First Aid training. With these actions, they are once again proving themselves to be leaders by paving the way for children to access better education, health and long-term success,” said Chuck Ingoglia, president and CEO of the National Council for Behavioral Health. “Research shows Social-Emotional Learning plays a critical role in promoting student success by increasing the likelihood of continued education, better mental health, healthy relationships and reduced criminal behavior.”
About National University and Sanford Harmony
The private, nonprofit National University System was established to meet the emerging challenges and demands of education in the 21st century. The affiliates of the San Diego-based System include National University, John F. Kennedy University, City University of Seattle, Northcentral University, and the Division of Pre-College Programs. The System also includes two education-focused initiatives: Workforce Education Solutions and the national Sanford Programs, which are based on the vision of philanthropist T. Denny Sanford: Sanford Harmony and Sanford Inspire, which provide educators with comprehensive lesson plans and activities to support Pre-K-12 student development and success, and the Sanford Institute of Philanthropy, which offers educational and training programs for front line nonprofit fundraisers. For more information, visit nusystem.org.