Education Justice

The Children’s Defense Fund–NY believes that each child has tremendous potential to learn and develop and we work to ensure that students—especially students of color, students living in poverty and students with special needs—have the positive learning environments they need to be successful.

CDF-NY engages in policy and budget advocacy, research, and community outreach to support the development and implementation of stakeholder-driven policies and initiatives that improve school climate and student outcomes, and provide students with the developmental, health and mental health resources they need to be able to learn.

In support of CDF’s Cradle to Prison Pipeline® campaign (meant to reduce the detention and incarceration of youth and young adults by increasing preventative supports and services), CDF-NY works to replace punitive and exclusionary school discipline and policing policies with positive alternatives and restorative approaches. Our overall goal is to improve education outcomes for youth by keeping them in school with the support of caring communities, and out of court.

School Climate

A safe and supportive school climate serves to nurture students’ social, emotional and academic skills. Especially for poor students, students of color and students with disabilities, who all too often attend schools with few resources and high rates of teacher turnover, drop-outs and school push-out, CDF-NY prioritizes supporting initiatives that improve school climate.

CDF-NY contributed research, policy and advocacy support to school climate recommendations published by the New York City School-Justice Partnership Task Force. Currently, CDF-NY serves on two working groups within the NYC Mayor’s School Climate Leadership Team, focused on the implementation of policies and regulations meant to protect student dignity and wellbeing.

As CDF’s mission urges us to ensure a successful passage to adulthood for children with the help of caring families and communities, CDF-NY remains keenly aware of the important role that all school stakeholders—students, teachers, parents, safety agents and school officials play in setting school climate. Since supporting its origination in 2012, CDF-NY has actively participated in the Bronx School Justice Working Group to facilitate multi-stakeholder conversations and initiatives focused on improving school climate and collaboration between stakeholders. With our Bronx partners, CDF-NY has provided several Cradle to Prison PipelineTM trainings to School Safety Officers city-wide, and facilitated school visits for school stakeholders to expedite the development and use of school climate action plans in schools across the Bronx.

School Discipline & Safety

Critical to a positive school climate are school discipline and safety policies that ensure student safety while also promoting inclusion and fairness. CDF-NY advocates for positive alternatives to punitive, exclusionary school discipline and safety practices such as suspensions, arrests and summonses.

As an active steering committee member of the Dignity in Schools Campaign – New York, CDF-NY advocates for changes to the NYC School Discipline Code, and policies and investments that utilize positive school-wide approaches to school discipline, such as restorative justice and guidance interventions that reduce conflict and increase learning. In working to reduce New York City’s overreliance on school discipline practices that disproportionately push students of color, students with special needs and LGBTQ students out of school, CDF-NY works directly with the NYC Mayor’s Office, Department of Education and City Council to ensure that students’ rights to be in school are not inappropriately violated.

In support of the NYC Student Safety Coalition, CDF-NY advocates to reduce school-based arrests and summonses, and increase transparency around school policing practices in NYC schools through the NYC Student Safety Act. The New York Police Department’s School Safety Division (SSD) is the largest in the nation and CDF-NY vigilantly monitors the impact of school arrests and summonses on students, and works actively to improve interactions between students and law enforcement.

Since 2012, CDF-NY has partnered with NYPD SSD to provide community-driven workshops to school safety agents regarding the negative impact the Cradle to Prison PipelineTM has on NYC students. These workshops, which include age-appropriate, restorative approaches to agents’ interactions with students, serve as a compliment to agents’ NYPD training, and provide opportunity for open and honest dialogue between agents and community members.

NYC Community Schools

Nation-wide community schools provide a holistic set of policies and programs to improve student wellness and academic achievement.

CDF-NY celebrates NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Community Schools Initiative for its use of a service co-location model that positions schools as a resource hub for students and families by providing access to academic instruction, social services and health care delivery systems. CDF-NY’s Executive Director, Melanie Hartzog, is proud to serve on Mayor de Blasio’s Community Schools Advisory Board, and the CDF-NY policy staff with specific expertise in school healthcare delivery and school climate are pleased to contribute to advisory board workgroups and strategic planning.

Publications, Testimony & Resources

CDF-NY Publications and Testimony

Amicus Brief In Support of Children in Arizona’s Broken Child Welfare System: B.K. v. McKay

Children’s Defense Fund-NY joined the nation’s leading child advocates in a friend of the court brief, filed in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of over 18,000 children in Arizona foster care. The lawsuit seeks state-wide reforms to improve investigations of child maltreatment, to increase the number and array of foster placements available for children removed from their families, to decrease the use of emergency shelters and group homes, and to address long-standing failures in the state’s physical and behavioral health services for foster youth.

July 6, 2018

2018 House Farm Bill Calls for Stricter Work Requirements to Maintain SNAP Eligibility: What does this mean for New York State’s Children and Families?

The 2014 Farm Bill is set to expire on September 30, 2018. The House’s proposed 2018 Farm Bill was rejected by Congress on May 18, 2018, but is up for reconsideration by June 22, 2018. Among various provisions, the House’s Farm Bill calls for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to uphold monthly eligibility standards as part of its tightened work requirements. The stricter and more demanding requirements are predicted to have devastating results on SNAP – which serves as one of the nation’s most effective and popular anti-hunger programs to date.

June 20, 2018

The Senate 2018 Farm Bill Aims to Improve SNAP Benefits

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow released the Senate Farm Bill on June 8, 2018. The Bill includes a bipartisan nutrition title that aims to protect and strengthen the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), an anti-hunger program that was reauthorized in the 2014 Farm Bill. Unlike the House’s proposed Farm Bill that is up for reconsideration by June 22, 2018, the Senate recognizes SNAP’s success – after all, one in four United States children participate in SNAP.

June 20, 2018

Testimony for the New York City Council Committee on Public Safety Oversight Hearing on NYPD’s Gang Takedown Efforts

Our testimony intends to highlight the ways that intersections between current gang policing, school policing, and school discipline threatens to push more young people of color out of City schools and into the justice system.

June 13, 2018

NYC Needs More School Social Workers for Homeless Students

Amy Pantoja, Beat the Odds Scholar, talks about the importance of getting more social workers focused on education for homeless students in New York City

June 6, 2018

Unaccompanied Migrant Youth Service Needs and Gaps in the New York Metropolitan Area

Unaccompanied migrant youth are one of the most defenseless populations in the New York Metropolitan Area. Despite New York’s vibrant history of immigrants and its leadership to make progress in addressing the needs of these populations, many challenges still exist. Migrant youth flee their home countries due to dangerous situations such as violence, domestic abuse, and exploitation. Youth seek safety in the United States; however, they often face many hardships once they enter the U.S. and try to adapt to life in the country. Although many changes to immigration policy have occurred since the initial research for this report, the key findings and recommendations remain crucial to providing assistance to this highly vulnerable population.

April 13, 2018

CDF-NY Urges the City to Address Increased Reliance on Suspensions and

A new report released by the Department of Education as part of the Student Safety Act shows that, after years of movement, progress to end school pushout in New York City has stalled. Data from July to December 2017, when compared to the same time period in 2016, indicates an increase of 20.9% in total suspensions – rising from 12,000 to 14,502.

April 2, 2018

The Executive Budget Disproportionately Targets Low-Income Children: Legislators Need to Protect Them

A partnership between the Children's Defense Fund- NY, the Schuyler Center, the Citizens’ Committee for Children, The Children’s Agenda, and Westchester Children’s Association to alert policymakers to the Executive Budget’s cumulative impacts on New York State’s children.

February 28, 2018


Como organizaciones de fe entendemos el valor y significado histórico de proveer santuario en nuestra congregación a los pobres y desamparados. Este es un concepto antiguo que trasciende fronteras y religiones juntando comunidades para celebrar y proteger la santidad de vida. Nuestros valores de amor y compasión para nuestros vecinos, sean quien sea, es lo que fortalece nuestro compromiso social de paz, justicia, y prosperidad.

February 14, 2018


CDF-NEW YORK’S BUDGET AND POLICY PRIORITIES aim to optimize prior investments in New York’s children and take bold new steps toward ensuring a fair and successful passage to adulthood.

February 14, 2018

Other Publications and Resources

NYC School Discipline Code,

NYC School Chancellor’s Regulations,

Joint “Dear Colleague” Letter, U.S. Department of Justice & Education,

Model Code on Education and Dignity, Dignity in Schools Campaign,

New York State Education Department, Public Data Access Site,

NYC Department of Education, NYC Data,

Dignity in Schools Campaign – New York,

The Student Safety Act Data, NYCLU,


For more information on
CDF-NY’s Education Advocacy,
please contact:


Charlotte Pope
Youth Justice Policy Associate