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Oversight Hearing on Segregation in NYC Schools

May 1, 2019

We would like to thank the New York City Council’s Education and Civil and Human Rights Committees for holding this important oversight hearing on segregation in New York City schools.

We are submitting testimony to highlight the need for the city’s school diversity and integration efforts to address disability inclusion, in addition to racial and class desegregation, which until now has largely been ignored. We urge our city to address the chronic physical and programmatic segregation of the 220,000+ school-age students with disabilities. We believe that true diversity and integration in our schools will not be achieved without recognizing inclusive education. Students with disabilities in our public schools are a significant minority group that cannot be ignored, since 20% of the total student population receives special education supports and services.

Over 57,000 students with disabilities during the 2017-18 school year spent more than half their school days in segregated educational settings and without general education students in their classrooms. In addition, 80% of the 220,000+ school-age students with disabilities identified as students of color, and 90% of the 25,000 students with disabilities who attended citywide specialized programs, otherwise known as District 75, identified as students of color.

INCLUDEnyc (formerly Resources for Children with Special Needs) has worked with hundreds of thousands of individuals since our founding 36 years ago, helping them navigate the complex special education service and support systems, so that young people with disabilities can be included in all aspects of New York City life.

We fully support and thank the Council for the proposed bills and resolutions, as well as pre-considered bills legally going into effect. In particular, we are grateful that they will provide more transparency and oversight; especially the introduction of bill 0949-2018. This bill will hold the New York City Department of Education accountable to an outside commission that will produce annual reports to the Mayor, DOE, and the Speaker, on the DOE’s efforts in addressing segregation in our schools.

We also hope that feedback from community members and advocates on related outcomes from earlier iterations of some of the proposed bills and adopted laws will be taken into consideration before any new implementation occurs. This includes the need for more disability representation in district-wide diversity groups, the addition of District 75 in any existing diversity initiatives, and the inclusion of representation of students with disabilities in the City and School Diversity Advisory Group. The need for including representation of people with disabilities on this group is evidenced by the initial report including only one paragraph on students with disabilities, a significant minority group.

As a result of these persistent segregation issues for students with disabilities, we recommend that the Department of Education:

  • Creates a citywide plan that focuses on integrating students with disabilities who attend community schools with non-disabled students in their schools
  • Creates a citywide plan that focuses on integrating students with disabilities attending District 75 schools with non-disabled students in other programs in their school buildings
  • Requires all district and citywide diversity groups to have adequate disability representation
  • Reports on the annual meetings of individual Building Councils, including the frequency they meet, and specifying the number of times that schools within the building participate in joint activities
  • Requires additional professional development for general and special education teachers, paraprofessionals, and school administrations on the value of inclusion

In addition, we recommend the City Council amend Local Law 27 so that the DOE will be required to report the number of students and percentage of time that students with IEPs in community schools and District 75 spend with general education students during 10 and 12 month school years.

Thank you for taking the time to consider these important matters. We look forward to partnering with you to improve equity and access for all students with disabilities in New York City.


Barbara A. Glassman

Executive Director