New York City School Suspensions:
In New York City, the number of superintendent’s suspensions increased by more than 76 percent between 2000 and 2005, jumping from 8,567 to 15,090. A report by the National Economic and Social Rights Initiative (NESRI) found that the NYC schools with the most punitive disciplinary policies are overwhelmingly under-resourced, overcrowded, and primarily attended by low-income students of color. Youth who are suspended from school are more likely to fall behind in school, be retained a grade, and drop out.
Whenever a student faces a superintendent’s suspension, a hearing is scheduled to determine whether the student engaged in the incident as charged and, if so, the appropriate disciplinary measures. Parents have the right to bring a representative to the hearing. However, currently, in NYC, there are very few professionals who represent students in suspension hearings. The vast majority of families are unrepresented at their students’ suspension hearings.
Suspension Representation Project (SRP):
The Suspension Representation Project (SRP) is an advocacy group based out of New York University School of Law (NYU) that trains law students across New York City to represent public school students in Superintendent’s suspension hearings.
NYU students formed SRP in 2007 to help address the tremendous unmet need for no cost, high quality representation at suspension hearings. Law students throughout New York City were eager to get involved. In 2009, SRP grew to include chapters at Brooklyn Law School and the City University of New York School of Law; by the spring of 2011, chapters had been established at Benjamin Cardozo School of Law, Columbia Law School, Fordham Law School, and Pace Law School. With the addition of New York Law School and St. John’s University School of Law in the fall of 2011, SRP now has a presence at every law school in New York City.
In addition, in the fall of 2011, the NYCDOE added SRP to the list of legal and advocacy organizations included in the suspension notification packets mailed out to families each time a student is charged with a Superintendent’s suspension.
SRP’s mission is to safeguard the right to public education by providing high quality advocacy services to New York City public school students facing Superintendent’s suspensions. In order to provide both excellent training for our law student advocates and excellent advocacy for the families we serve, SRP pairs new advocates with an experienced student advocate and a 3L Advisor. SRP advocates develop meaningful legal skills—including interviewing clients and conducting direct- and cross- examinations—and SRP’s clients gain valuable assistance and support. It’s a win-win.
SRP advocates have had remarkable success in helping to get their clients’ charges dismissed or their suspension time reduced. In 2011-2012, SRP advocates helped achieve a favorable outcome (i.e., charges dismissed or reduced, or less suspension time than the school requested) in 65% of our cases—including getting some or all of the charges dismissed in more than one in five cases.
Suspension Representation Project (SRP) Advocates are law students who volunteer to represent students and their parents in Superintendent’s suspension hearings. We are not attorneys, and we are not supervised by attorneys, professors, or law schools.