NYC Ombuds Report Notes Inadequate Support for Conflict Resolution in NYC Schools

A February 2007 report issued by the NYC Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum notes that “the DOE is not doing enough to ensure that conflict resolution training and services are supported in city schools.” This conclusion is based on a survey of 158 administrators designed to glean administrators’ perspective on DOE school safety policies, including the degree to which those policies cultivate an atmosphere conducive to teaching and learning. The survey also asked administrators for the rates of incidents and superintendent suspensions in their schools during the 2004-2005 and 2005-2006 school years. Finally, the survey asked administrators about the number of teachers in their schools who had received conflict resolution training and the degree to which conflict resolution training and programming is a part of day-to-day life in their schools. The full report, entitled Between Policy and Reality: School Administrators Critical of Department of Education School Safety Policy, is available online. A primary concern is that there has been a shift away for social-emotional learning and conflict resolution education and toward a policing and “get tough” policy despite explicit support for CRE.

As noted in the report, “The New York City Department of Education’s Citywide Standards of Discipline and Intervention Measures state that ‘[a]dministrators, teachers, counselors, and other school staff are expected to engage with students, including students with disabilities, in intervention and prevention strategies that address the student’s behavioral issues…and family circumstances: social/emotional learning, such as conflict resolution/mediation/negotiation…’. To this end, the DOE offers voluntary conflict resolution professional development training for teachers and administrators. Additionally, the state provides various funding streams for complementary programming, such as the Violence Prevention and Extended Day grant.”

A couple of key findings related to teacher training in Conflict Resolution:

98 percent of high school administrators report that no teachers, or just “a few”, in their schools have received any conflict education and/or resolution training.

82 percent of administrators at all levels report that no teachers, or just “a few”, have received conflict education and/or resolution training.

The Report cites New York University Professor of Education Pedro Noguera’s warning that, “[s]chools that rely on security guards and metal detectors to create safety may end up creating an environment that is so repressive that it is no longer conducive to learning.” Referring to the success of community policing initiatives, Prof. Noguera asserts that safety is “ultimately a by-product of social relationships and from the willingness of the members of a community to look out for each other and hold one another accountable.”

The Public Advocate’s office followed up with a second study of conflict resolution service providers. The report from this study, released in May of 2007 is entitled Conflict Unresolved: DOE Fails to Recognize What Works in School Safety and Student Achievement. A quick review of this study is posted in our Researcher’s Blog.