The New York City public school system has suspended several students over the years for “defying authority” – a right they have under the disciplinary code B21.
B21 is defined as “disobeying the lawful authority or directive of school personnel or school safety agents in a way that substantially disrupts the educational process.”
Manhattan’s JustPeace is one of the many groups that is protesting this disciplinary code. People are arguing that this rule disproportionately affects students of color, immigrant youth and LGBTQ youth in the New York City school system.
JustPeace co-presidents Katelyn-Rose Conroy and Sarah Kissane said that it was important for the organization to protest this code for multiple reasons.
They noted how it was close to home, being based on the city school system. At the end of last month, members of the club went around to get petitions signed in support of the protest.
“Getting petitions signed meant that we were supporting young people trying to do social justice work, which is always a plus. The B21 protest is something we are in support of because it tries to alleviate the systematic racism present in our country.”
The Urban Youth Collaborative released a statement that there was an average of 40 students suspended each day at school in 2013 due to this infraction. According to the research, the infraction is the second most common reason for students being suspended in the New York City public school system.
People arguing against the rule believe that dozens of students are at risk of dropping out of school due to B21. Students could be suspended for minor infractions, including things such as refusing to take of their hats or talking back to their teacher. The penalties should be dealt with in school instead of in court.
Los Angeles had a similar rule in their public school system and the city has recently eliminated it. Since then, they saw a 40 percent reduction in suspensions. Under Mayor Bill de Blasio, city activists are preparing for possible reforms.
“Our goal was to raise awareness of the issue,” Conroy said, “and to get as many petitions signed as we could. It was really successful.”
JustPeace got involved in the protest through a connection from Kathleen Von Euw, Manhattan’s coordinator of community service and partnerships. She linked the club to the Northwest Bronx Community & Clergy Coalition and their youth organization Sistas & Brothas United. Both organizations have worked with Manhattan before.
The youth organization was trying to get as many petitions signed as possible. Conroy and Kissane said that the members of the youth organization picked the petition themselves, as an initiative they wanted to get behind.
“We just gathered them up and handed them in,” Conroy said on any update with the petition, “so no change yet, but hopefully there will be news soon.”