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| Organizing for Education Justice

NYC Youth, Council Members Call on City to Address Bullying and Conflict in Schools by Increasing Social and Mental Health Support, not Policing

The report highlights key priorities for all NYC schools, including: increasing the number of trained and supervised full time guidance counselors and social workers; implementation of restorative justice practice in all underserved schools and; comprehensive mental supports for young people.



Onyx Walker, Youth Leader from Urban Youth Collaborative alongside Council Members Daniel Dromm and Mark Levine at the steps of City Hall before the NYC Council hearing on bullying to demand social and mental health support for NYC public schools, not policing.

New York, NY - On Monday, October 30th, young people from the Urban Youth Collaborative, along with NYC Council Chair of Education Committee Daniel Dromm, Council Member Mark Levine, and organizations -- including Dignity in School Campaign New York and the Center for Popular Democracy--held a press conference in front of City Hall to call on New York City to address bullying and conflict in schools by increasing social, emotional, and mental health supports, not policing and punitive zero tolerance policies. The young people are calling for drastically increasing the number of guidance counselors, restorative practices and mental health supports in schools.

The press conference coincided with the release of a new report, “Young People’s Vision for Safe, Supportive, and Inclusive Schools,” written by the Center for Popular Democracy and Urban Youth Collaborative, whose organizational members include young people from Future of Tomorrow, Make the Road New York, Sistas and Brothas United. The report recommendations were developed by youth leaders who have spent years organizing to transform their schools and their communities. In response to calls to return to discriminatory and ineffective school climate strategies, young people are advancing solutions that reimagine school safety and reduce bullying and discrimination by prioritizing and allocating funding for meeting their social, emotional, and mental health needs. Study after study shows policing and exclusionary discipline does not create safer schools, and in fact, can make students feel less safe and harm our most vulnerable students. In contrast, the supports students are calling for reduce bullying and create safer schools. Immediately following the press conference there was a a New York City Council hearing on Bullying, Discrimination, and Harassment in Schools.

Young people are uniquely situated to lead the dialogue in developing truly safe and inclusive learning communities. The blueprint highlights key priorities for all NYC schools, including: increasing the number of trained and supervised full time guidance counselors and social workers; implementation of restorative justice practice in all underserved schools and; comprehensive mental supports for young people. Young people are at the forefront of a growing movement to demand New York City divest from ineffective, costly and racially discriminatory policing practices – and instead invest in creating schools that respond to student needs and create truly safe and inclusive schools. .

"Too often, I have seen a lack of support for students, myself included, because there is a lack of guidance counselors in schools. On average there is one full time guidance counselor for every 407 students. We need to significantly increase the number of guidance counselors. By having one guidance counselor for every 100 students, a counselor’s workload will not only lessen, but the depth of the relationships they have with students will deepen" said Maybelen Navarro, Youth Leader, Urban Youth Collaborative.

“We don’t have to look very far to develop solutions that create safe and inclusive school communities. Time and time again we are reminded that young people are the best resource we have for developing successful and sustainable policies for every school in every neighborhood.” said Roberto Cabanas the Coordinator for the Urban Youth Collaborative. “Today we release this Policy Brief to share young people’s vision for their schools. We need more counselors, restorative practices, and mental health care.”

“The city must be bold enough to reimagine safety so that it is rooted in effective and humane practices of support rather than policing” said Kate Terenzi, Equal Justice Works Fellow at the Center for Popular Democracy. “Young people hold the answer to how to create inclusive and safe schools. Their solutions - guidance counselors, mental health services, and restorative justice - are proven effective by research and young people’s own expertise in navigating school environments. Placing more police and metal detectors won’t make school safer, social and mental health support will do that. ”

"It is imperative that we bolster social, emotional, and mental health support structures in NYC public schools," said NYC Council Education Committee Chairperson Daniel Dromm.  "Metal detectors, increased policing and zero tolerance policies do nothing for the thousands of children affected by bullying year-round.  These measures only contribute to the problem, creating hostile school climates that are not conducive to learning.  To effectively push back against bullying, we must increase the number of school guidance counselors, employ restorative justice practices and offer comprehensive mental health services across the five boroughs.  As Chairperson of the NYC Council Education Committee, I am committed to doing all that I can to end school bullying by moving our schools in this direction"

In addition, the report calls the city to reverse policies that have proven ineffective at creating safe and supportive environments for students policies that promote the exclusion and criminalization of Students. In particular, New York City should end arrests, as well as the issuance of summonses and juvenile reports, in schools for non-criminal violations and misdemeanors; institute a moratorium on the installation of new metal detectors in schools, and remove existing metal detectors; and, remove police officers from schools.




TESTIMONIES: Young People’s and the Center for Popular Democracy’s


Contact: Roberto Cabanas, Urban Youth Collaborative 973.432.2406 or Roberto.Urbanyouthcollab@gmail.com   


The Urban Youth Collaborative is led by students young people and brings together New York City students to fight for real education reform that puts students first. Demanding a high-quality education for all students, young people struggle for social, economic, and racial justice in the city’s schools and communities. Organizational members include: Make the Road New York, Sistas and Brothas United, and Future of Tomorrow


Center for Popular Democracy promotes equity, opportunity, and a dynamic democracy in partnership with innovative base-building organizations, organizing networks and alliances, and progressive unions across the country. CPD builds the strength and capacity of democratic organizations to envision and advance a pro-worker, pro-immigrant, racial justice agenda