Ifetayo Y. Belle

  • Hosted by New York Civil Liberties Union
  • Sponsored by Norflet Progress Fund
  • Service location New York, New York
  • Law school Northeastern University School of Law
  • Issue area Civil Rights/Civil Liberties, Education/Special Education
  • Fellowship class year 2012
  • Program Design Your Own Fellowship

The Project

Ifetayo provided representation at suspension hearings for low-income students of color with learning and emotional disabilities and utilized impact litigation to reduce improper suspensions in New York City.

The severity of punishment of minor student misbehavior, particularly amongst black students with learning and emotional disabilities, is contributing to the dropout crisis and achievement gap in New York City’s public schools. Students with disabilities are four times more likely to be suspended as general education students. While black students represent 36 percent of disabled students in New York City public schools, they account for 53 percent of all suspended students with disabilities. The focus of Ifetayo’s project was to address overly strict suspension policies that disproportionately affect black students with disabilities by directly representing students at suspension hearings and Manifestation Determination Reviews, utilizing impact litigation to reduce the improper suspensions of students whose behavior is a manifestation of their disability, and promoting policies that assist students who have been suspended with re-entry into the classroom.

Fellowship Highlights

During her Fellowship, Ifetayo:

  • Represented students with disabilities in suspension hearings and Manifestation Determination Reviews
  • Lobbied elected officials to enhance school safety both in New York City and New York State
  • Expanded the work of NYCLU’s education coalition work by presenting workshops and attending statewide meetings on exclusionary discipline and school safety

Next Steps

Ifetayo is continuing to advocate for special education students as a Staff Attorney at Advocates for Children of New York.

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