Assurance of Discontinuance
In response to the December 2015 findings of an investigation by the New York State Attorney General’s Office, the City School District of Albany has reaffirmed its commitment to changing discipline practices and procedures that have perpetuated disproportionate suspension rates for black students and students with disabilities.
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced an agreement with the district that all parties believe will foster safe and effective school climates for each of the district’s 9,500 students.
The investigation began in February 2015 and included a review of suspension data between the 2009-10 and 2013-14 school years. The report found that the district suspended an average of 1 in 8 students out of school, and that those suspended students lost a total of more than 7,000 days of school each year as a result.
Black students were three times more likely to be suspended than their white peers. Students with disabilities were twice as likely to be suspended as students without disabilities, and three times as likely to receive multiple suspensions in the same school year. Visit the attorney general's website to read the news release. You also can download the full agreement.
The report credited the district for taking steps both before and since the investigation began to address the suspension disparities. Those steps included revisions to the Code of Conduct that took effect in the 2014-15 school year, updated procedures to ensure due process for students in disciplinary matters and new approaches to discipline that do not rely on suspension from a class or school.
However, those steps have not been consistently implemented district-wide, according to the report.
In addition to its continued commitment to the steps noted in the attorney general’s report, including continued training for staff and further revisions to the Code of Conduct, the district will continue to prioritize social-emotional supports for students in schools such as psychologists and social workers.
Partnerships that bring more community resources into school also will be a priority.
As part of the agreement, the district also has hired an independent monitor to provide oversight and audit the district’s compliance, and an ombudsperson to support the work, assure full compliance with the district's Code of Conduct and taking complaints about student discipline.
Valarie Ann Scott is the City School District of Albany's ombudsperson, a part-time position also required by the Assurance of Discontinuance agreeement with the New York State Attorney General's Office.
As the district’s ombudsperson, Scott is charged with promoting procedural and substantive fairness and full compliance with the district’s Code of Conduct, and state and federal laws. A key element of her role is soliciting and taking complaints about student discipline from parents, students, staff members and community advocates, investigating and evaluating these complaints, and serving as liaison with the district’s administrative staff, including but not limited to the director of pupil personnel services, the director of special education and the superintendent, to resolve these complaints.
The ombudsperson position also was created to identify systemic issues that diminish fairness, impede full compliance with the Code of Conduct and the law, or impair full communication between the district and parents, students, staff members and community advocates.
Scott does not participate in formal adjudicative or administrative procedures, but does provide information to parents, students, staff members and community members about these procedures and the Code of Conduct while promoting and encouraging parents and students to fully engage in the student’s education and, where necessary, the student disciplinary process.