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

New York City Department of Education Releases Revised Discipline Code, the “Citywide Behavioral Expectations to Support Student Learning”

With the NYC Department of Education’s newest Discipline Code, released today, the city has taken great steps to restrict the use of suspensions for students in kindergarten through second grade. We commend these restrictions as well as the revisions made to the Code that introduce opportunities for early reinstatement and reduce the availability of the expulsion option. At the same time, CDF-NY calls on the DOE and the City of New York to ensure the accessibility of disciplinary alternatives. Restorative justice in particular, mentioned in the Code’s range of possible interventions, remains limited to too few schools and districts across the school system.

April 19, 2017

Testimony of the Children’s Defense Fund-NY: Public Safety Oversight Hearing on the Fiscal Year 2018 Preliminary Budget

CDF-NY submits testimony to the New York City Council Committee on Public Safety on the fiscal year 2018 Preliminary Budget, speaking to the need to restore and expand funding for the Council’s Restorative Justice Initiative to $5 million in FY2018.

March 30, 2017

Testimony of the Children’s Defense Fund-NY: Education Oversight Hearing on the Fiscal Year 2018 Preliminary Budget

CDF-NY submits testimony to the New York City Council Committee on Education on the fiscal year 2018 Preliminary Budget, with an urgency to restore and expand funding for the council’s Restorative Justice Initiative to $5 million.

March 21, 2017

New York Medicaid CHP Data Overview AHCA- March 2017

Right now Congress is considering changes to the ACA and Medicaid. The changes would undo more than 50 years of progress made expanding comprehensive child-appropriate health coverage to millions of children. An analysis of NYSDOH data from October 2016 reveals that 54% of New York children are covered by either Medicaid or Child Health Plus (CHP).2 This means a majority of New York children have a significant stake in the policy proposals that impact Medicaid or CHP.

March 9, 2017

Raise the Age Faith One Pager

Resource Guide for Faith Leaders in New York State. Across the religious spectrum, people of faith can draw on the texts and teachings of their religious traditions to hear and respond to the holy and eternal call for love and justice that urges special care and protection for children – especially those who are most vulnerable.

March 2, 2017

Raise the Age: Take Action

Three Ways to Take Action to #RaisetheAgeNY in 2017 Did you know that New York is one of only two states where all young people ages 16 and 17 are automatically treated as adults in the criminal justice system, regardless of the offense?

March 2, 2017

Health One Pager

Congress is trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA/Obamacare), and cut Medicaid and other healthcare programs for kids. Currently, more than 97% of New York children have healthcare coverage because of the ACA, Medicaid, and other programs for children.

February 2, 2017

Comments for the Office of Safety and Youth Development, New York City Department of Education Re: The Draft New York City School Discipline Code

CDF-NY testifies on proposed changes to the Student Code of Conduct calling on the New York City Department of Education to take additional steps to foster safe and supportive schools, further reduce the use of suspensions, and lessen disparities in the use of exclusionary discipline by race, disability status, sexual orientation, and gender identity.

January 30, 2017

Testimony of the Children’s Defense Fund-NY: Teacher Recruitment and Retention

CDF-NY submits testimony on teacher recruitment and retention, with aims to encourage restorative supports for teachers that can result in positive school climates, higher student engagement, lower rates of absenteeism, dropout, and pushout, and increased teacher retention.

January 24, 2017

Testimony on Educational Services for Detained Placed and Incarcerated Youth.pdf

November 30, 2016

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