Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña today announced the launch of new anti-bullying initiatives to better serve students and families, and also ensure schools are providing safe and inclusive learning environments in every school building. These initiatives include: a Bullying Complaint Portal for families; community workshops on bullying prevention and reduction; Mental Health First Aid training for schools and communities; increased protection from bullying for students; and funding for student-led organizations, such as Gender and Sexuality Alliances and Respect For All clubs. The DOE is also releasing its annual report on suspensions and will begin publicly reporting additional information on bullying incidents in schools. The total cost of the new reforms is $8 million.
“As a parent and your Mayor, there is nothing more important than the safety and wellbeing of all New York City kids,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “Guided by input from parents across the five boroughs, this new investment will build upon our current efforts to ensure that our classrooms are inclusive learning environments, and keep crime in schools as its historic low.”
“Bullying is a violent and traumatic experience that no young person should have to cope with,” said First Lady Chirlane McCray, who leads ThriveNYC, the City’s comprehensive mental health initiative, and the NYC Unity Project, an unprecedented effort to support LGBTQ youth in the City. “New York students need to feel safe and supported in their schools if they are to learn and grow to their fullest potential. I am proud to stand with the Mayor and Chancellor to announce this ambitious and comprehensive package of initiatives that will combat bullying and expand supports for children and families across the city.”
“Bullying, harassment and discrimination have no place in our schools and these reforms, including strengthened training for staff and families, a new family-facing reporting portal, and expanded mental health services, will deliver critical resources to prevent and address bullying in schools,” said Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña. “We must work together to ensure that all school communities, particularly parents, are engaged as partners in this ongoing work.”
“We continue to work closely with the Department of Education to ensure the safety of every student, in every corner of this City,” said Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill. “We welcome this initiative to help resolve potential conflicts.”
“Stress, bullying and depression are damaging to the overall health of our children and teenagers. The expansion of anti-bullying programs, Mental Health First Aid, and other newly available training has the potential to save lives and prevent tragedies in our schools,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “I thank Mayor de Blasio, First Lady McCray, and Chancellor Carmen Fariña for their commitment to this vital issue. These reforms will bring a new focus on this issue and provide hope to countless students throughout the city.”
“Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students, like all students, deserve a safe school climate,” said NYC Council Education Committee Chairperson Daniel Dromm. “Reducing bullying in our schools will save lives. I am pleased the DOE is recommitting itself to this goal by investing $8 million in resources for our students. I am particularly pleased to see $1 million in funding to support GSA’s and Respect for All clubs. As someone who has worked on this issue for over 25 years, I know that holding schools accountable is key to improving school climate and this goal seems to be reflected in this new package. I look forward to continuing to work with the DOE to ensure its success.”
The DOE works in close partnership with the NYPD and other City agencies as part of the City’s ongoing work to ensure safe schools and communities. Last month, the Mayor and Chancellor hosted a discussion with parent leaders on school safety, and feedback they received informed several of the new initiatives. These reforms include:
- Bullying Complaint Portal: Family engagement is critical to strong school communities and the Bullying Complaint Portal will be an easy-to-use, public-facing tool for families to report online any incidents of student discrimination, harassment, intimidation and/or bullying. Families who report incidents of bullying against their children will receive an electronic acknowledgment of receipt within one school day and will be informed of the outcome of the investigation within 10 school days. Launching in 2019, the portal will increase access for families and help the DOE determine where additional resources are needed at schools across the city.
- Mental Health First Aid Training and Community Workshops: Families, community members, staff and students will also be provided with Mental Health First Aid training and workshops on bullying prevention and reduction. The Mental Health First Aid trainings will be offered in partnership with DOHMH and ThriveNYC, and will cover the five-step action plan for assessing, identifying and offering assistance to students in crisis. There will also be anti-bullying workshops focusing on restorative practices, LGBT supports, cyberbullying and religious tolerance.
- Anti-bias and anti-bullying training for staff: In January, DOE will offer Kognito training -a web based anti-bias interactive training — for all school-based employees, in addition to anti-bias training that is conducted by the Anti-Defamation League for school staff. Additionally, Parent Coordinators will receive targeted training from the Family and Community Engagement Office (FACE) that will cover topics including creating a supportive environment, identifying bullying and supporting those involved in bullying.
- Increased protection from bullying for students: The DOE will implement a new protocol that requires schools to develop individual student action plans to address instances when there are several substantiated claims of bullying against the same student. Students who experience one or more incidents of bullying or harassment will be eligible to receive a transfer, and the DOE will work with the family to identify alternative placement options as soon as the transfer is requested.
- Funding for student-led clubs: The City is dedicating $1 million to support the establishment of groups such as student-led Gender and Sexuality Alliances and Respect For All clubs. Middle schools and high school across the City will be able to apply to receive funding to support the launch of new organizations.
- Targeted support for 300 schools: Schools with high bullying rates will receive targeted social-emotional support to train staff and support students. Programs for these schools will focus on self-awareness, self-management; social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision making.
Today, the DOE also reported suspension data from the 2016-2017 school year to the City Council. The report, available here,, shows that the total number of suspensions during school year 2016-17 are down 6.4 percent, compared to the 2015-16 school year. During the same time period, there was an eight percent decrease in school-related arrests and an 11 percent decrease in the number of summonses issued by the School Safety Division. As a result of the City’s investment of more than $47 million annually to support the expansion of school climate and mental health initiatives, crime in schools is at an all-time low and suspensions in schools have decreased by 34% over the past five years. These programs are part of the DOE’s ongoing work to ensure that schools are equipped with the critical resources they need to effectively manage incidents and address underlying issues head-on.
In district 18, the DOE has invested $500,000 this year to implement a district-wide restorative practices initiative at all schools. The 35 schools in the district had a 25 percent decrease in suspensions during the 2016-17 school year compared to the previous year. The DOE hired a restorative practices coordinator to oversee the implementation of training and support for schools. Through partnerships with community based organizations and with support from central DOE staff, staff members at District 18 schools attended intensive training on restorative practices, were provided with on-site coaching and received support in launching advisory programs. District 18 was selected since it had the highest rate of suspensions during school year 2014-15, and the district’s significant improvement in promoting positive school climates will serve as a case study for similar supports that will be provided to three additional district across the city. Next year, students at approximately 150 additional schools will also be receiving these effective resources.
In addition to the annual report on suspensions in schools, the City Council has introduced legislation on bullying reporting that is supported by the Chancellor. The DOE will begin to publicly report the total number of substantiated incidents of student-on-student bullying, harassment, intimidation or discrimination in violation of Chancellor’s Regulation A-832. The report will be disaggregated by community school district and by school, and include data on the unique number of complaints, a description of resources and support provided to schools, and a description of trends in the data related to types of substantiated incidents.
Earlier this month, the DOE provided schools with information on modules for professional development sessions on building and maintaining a supportive and inclusive learning environment that included a review of reporting-requirement protocols and training how to ensure that parents are informed of crucial school climate and safety issues. The DOE will be sharing additional details with schools and families on these initiatives in the coming weeks.