Counselors not Cops

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Dear UFT Contract Negotiating Team:

We, the undersigned believe that we need to strengthen contract language regarding student discipline and safety starting with the following:

1.  Increase Investment in Guidance Counselors and Social Workers by Including Caseload Caps in Guidance Counselor and Social Worker Contracts.

We believe the best people to resolve conflict are those trained to respond to young people from a youth development perspective, like Guidance Counselors and Social Workers, rather than from a criminal justice framework.  Thus, we are calling for the city to bring the school policing program in line with the nation’s other large school districts by restoring control over school safety to educators.. UFT should use its collective bargaining power to establish agreements that limit the cases when law enforcement can be called in to a school, with particular safeguards in place to ensure students’ rights to education and dignity are protected, in addition to their constitutional rights to counsel and due process. We seek a divestment from the NYPD and an investment in guidance counselors, and social workers.

2. Create Safe Schools through Compensatory Time Positions and Professional Development.

Currently, schools receive supports in how to implement punitive justice, such as suspension. Teachers require a wider array of tools that include restorative practices, such as peer mediation, restorative conferencing and other alternatives to suspensions.  Currently, the City Wide Behavior Expectations (the NYC DOE Discipline Code), require UFT staff to use many of these practices, but we are not given the necessary time, resources, or tools to implement them. Our contract must reflect the staffing and training needs required to sustain these programs and new demands placed on staff by the DOE.

Specifically, school staff need meaningful professional development that is culturally relevant and addresses race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality to ensure safe and positive school climates.  Trainings we’ve found to be effective include:

Restorative Circles and Conferencing
Conflict Resolution and Collaborative Problem Solving
Peer Mediation
Peer Negotiation
Therapeutic Crisis Intervention
Life Space Crisis Intervention
Conflict Resolution
Collaborative Problem Solving

Additionally, we’ve found that schools who create compensatory time positions to run these programs implement them with more fidelity than schools that do not. Our contract must seek to increase training in these specific programs as well as ways to structure work days to ensure that adequate staffing is available to fully implement these programs.

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