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Failing Bronx High School With High Suspension Rate Lands On Potential Closure List

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School suspensions citywide increased 2.4 percent from last year according to a recent report from the Department of Education, and over 2,000 students were suspended at Lehman High School in the Bronx, which is now on the list of schools facing potential closure. NY1’s Lindsey Christ filed the following report.

Suspensions are supposed to be the way schools respond to serious misbehavior. At Lehman High School in the Bronx, however, thousands of students have been suspended, and some say their infractions were minor.

“For being late to class,” said one student.

“If you miss two detentions, they suspend you on the spot,” said another.

“For walking around, getting to class on late [sic], not having a hall pass,” said a third.

In fact, Lehman students had 2,100 suspensions last year — the most in the city according to data just released by the Department of Education.

Former principal Janet Saraceno signed 2,000 of them. She was brought in to save the struggling school but was replaced last summer after DOE investigators found she'd changed report card grades.

Students say the suspensions continue.

Being late or even cutting class is considered "level one behavior.” Individually, such offenses shouldn't lead to suspensions, but students can be suspended for "persistent level one behavior.” That was the most common reason at Lehman, with “insubordination” coming in at number two.

“This isn't about safety for the teachers or for the other kids. This is about schools that are pushing kids out willy-nilly, for no reason whatsoever,” said Donna Lieberman at the New York Civil Liberties Union.

Some say the suspensions don’t work.

“Most of my friends, they get off suspension, come back and do the same thing and get suspended again,” said one student.

Last week, Lehman got its second “F” in a row on its annual progress report, and since a school can be closed down after just one, it's very likely this school will end up on the closure list this year.

Citywide, there were 73,441 suspensions. That's up 2.4 percent from the previous year and more than double the number nine years ago.

More than half went to black students, though they make up just 30 percent of the system. Special education students were also disproportionately affected.

And it's not just teenagers: at PS 152, almost four dozen first, second and third graders were suspended, and half of them were just six years old.

Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said schools should be trying to counsel students before suspending them. He said he'd like to see these numbers come down.

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