Thursday, September 27, 2012

Sinergia's Anti-Bullying Unity Day 2012

October is National Bullying Prevention Month, which was started by PACER, the National Parent Training and Information Center.

Sinergia will mark this occasion by holding a Unity Day, bringing people together to show support for students who have been bullied. We will wear orange, distribute orange t-shirts for children and hold special activities, including a Special Poster Exhibit.

When: October 10, 2012 from 3 PM- 5 PM
Where: 2082 Lexington Ave., 4th floor
RSVP: 212-643-2840

Poster Exhibit – Call for EntriesWe will be holding a Special Poster Exhibit with an anti- bullying theme. Children are invited to participate by submitting their artwork. All entries will be on view for the month of October. If you would like your child to participate, entries must be received by October 3 in person or mailed to:
Poster Contest
Sinergia, Inc.
2082 Lexington Ave. 4th floor
New York, New York 10035
RSVP: 212-643-2840

Judges will be Marta Moreno Vega, noted Director of the Caribbean Cultural Center and Ana Soto, artist.

Please come with your children to this anti bullying event featuring special activities and guest speakers.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Back to School Resources from the NYC Council

Below is helpful information for families preparing and planning ahead for the new school year, from the NYC Council.

Implementation of the Dignity for all Students Act
The Dignity Act, which went into effect on July 1, 2012, increases the requirements for schools in preventing bullying and creating harassment-free learning environments. (Click here for information on the law's requirements within our schools.)

Here are some things to keep in mind as your child returns to school this year:

• Schools should send home an age-appropriate version of the Dignity Act policy with all students.  This should be in plain language and should be distributed at the beginning of the year.
• Every school should have a Dignity Act coordinator, an individual who is currently called the Respect for All (RFA) liaison.  This individual must be thoroughly trained to respond to incidents of bullying and bias-based harassment that occur as a result of students' race, color, weight, national origin, ethnic group, religion, religious practice, disability, sexual orientation, gender and sex.
• School staff (non-professional staff) should be trained to raise their awareness and sensitivity to potential discrimination or harassment, as well as how to prevent and respond to a bullying incident.
• School staff who find out about harassment or bullying are required to act immediately to report and address bullying.  They should be trained in the proper procedures for doing so.
• School staff must be aware that the Dignity Act now encompasses staff-to-student bullying, and has the same reporting requirements as student to student bullying.
• Schools must answer all bullying incidents with specific responses intended to create a school environment that is free from discrimination and harassment.

If you have any questions about whether or not your child's school is abiding by these regulations, you can contact the DOE at  You can also contact Carlos Menchaca or Nick Rolf in the Council's Community Outreach Unit at and, respectively.

New Special Education Services for Students and Families

The following services are being offered to help families get their questions answered in a timely manner.

Beginning August 1, 2012, families who need assistance with their children's placements or have any questions regarding the reforms can do any of the following:

1. Call a dedicated hotline for special education support at (718) 935-2007;
2. Call 311 and ask for services for parents;
3. Attend family office hours in nine sites across the five boroughs with day, evening, and weekend hours beginning July 31, 2012.  During office hours, a special education specialist will be available to help resolve families' questions about the special education reform initiative and work to reach solutions to support their child(ren).  The complete schedule of dates, times and locations is available on the DOE's website at

Free Citywide Legal Services for Immigrants & their Families

Last week the NYC Council announced a new partnership with CUNY Citizenship Now! to begin providing free high-quality and confidential legal immigration services to New Yorkers and their families in the wake of President Obama's historic decision to defer deportation action for young immigrants.  These services, which begin October 1, 2012, will be offered at 30 different locations on a weekly or monthly basis over the next year.

Through this Council-funded program, qualified attorneys and paralegals will offer one-on-one consultations and assist qualified immigrants with applying for citizenship.  New Yorkers will have access to a variety of legal services, including green card applications, deferred action, citizenship interview coaching and more.

Services will be offered weekly at seven Council members' offices in Queens, five in Brooklyn, four in the Bronx, three in Manhattan and one in Staten Island, and offered monthly at three offices in Queens, four in Brooklyn, two in the Bronx, one in Manhattan, one in Staten Island.  Locations were selected by analyzing Citizenship Now! data from years past.

You can find the full list of participating Council Member offices here.

Changes Made to School Discipline Code

Missing even a few days of school, especially during those critical early years (kindergarten through 3rd), can have negative consequences throughout a student's academic career.

After several public hearings and a meeting with the Speaker's office, the NYC Department of Education (DOE) recently updated their discipline code, which includes a number of important changes that the City Council and advocates called for. 

These changes include:

• Previously, a Level 3 Infraction (defined as disruptive behavior) could result in a "superintendent's suspension" (an out of school suspension lasting 6-10 days).  This is no longer an option for students in grades K-3.  The maximum penalty for the same infraction would result in a "principal's suspension" (less than 5 days).

• The DOE has also changed language in the code to encourage teachers to start with guidance-based intervention rather than immediate discipline.  For example, instead of suspending a student, teachers will be encouraged to hold a conference with the child, their parents, and a social worker to explain why the student's actions were wrong and to collaboratively develop a plan to help that student improve their behavior in the future.

You can find the DOE's revised discipline code, effective September 2012, here.

You can read more about these important changes in the news by clicking on the links below:

Get Your Library Card!

There are over 200 libraries in neighborhoods around the five boroughs that offer millions of books, resources, and internet access free of charge, and the back-to-school season is a perfect time to become a library card holder.

By becoming regular visitors to the library, young people can further their academic and work skills and become lifetime learners.

Information about applying for a library card is available at

Please help spread the word and encourage young people to apply!

New GED Test for 2014

Beginning January 1, 2014, there will be a new GED test in New York State.  As a result, any scores on the sections passed by test takers prior to that date will no longer count.  Therefore, we encourage anyone who's considering taking the GED again to do so by the end of 2013.

There are a number of programs around the City that can help students and adult learners prepare for and pass the GED.  For example, New York City has a network of Literacy Zones with counselors who can assist New Yorkers with finding a GED preparation program that best serves their needs.  Please call or visit one of the organizations below for more information:


Turning Point
5220 Fourth Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11220

The Bronx

Highbridge Community Life Center
979 Ogden Avenue, Bronx, NY 10452
646-393-9533 X117


CUNY Borough of Manhattan Community College
199 Chambers Street, S-736, NY, NY 10004

Literacy Partners, Inc.
PUSH Family Welcome Center
127 West 127th St, NY, NY 10027

Northern Manhattan Improvement Corp.
76 Wadsworth Avenue, NY, NY 10033

University Settlement Society of New York Inc.
184 Eldridge Street, NY, NY 10002


CUNY York College
94-43 160th Street, Jamaica, NY 11451

Ravenswood Family Learning Center
35-32 21st Street, Long Island City, NY 11101

Peninsula Adult Learning Center
92-25 Rockaway Beach Blvd., Rockaway Beach, NY 11693

Staten Island

Jewish Community Center of Staten Island
1859 Victory Blvd., Staten Island, NY 10314

YouCanToo! is another great resource.  Their website features a GED prep program locator, online tools, resources and over 50 videos of adult learners in New York City.  For more information, log on to

You can also call 311 to find an adult education program in your community.

Universal Pre-Kindergarten (UPK)

Early childhood education has benefits across a child's lifetime, including raising academic achievement and increasing the chances that a child will successfully graduate from high school.

As in previous years, the NYC Council is partnering with the NYC Department of Education (DOE), the NYC Administration for Children's Services (ACS) and child care advocates across the five boroughs to help enroll children in FREE universal pre-kindergarten (UPK).  These programs are available to all children who turn four year old in 2012 and regardless of their immigration status.

There are a few ways that families can get information about the nearest UPK program with available seats:

1. Call: 311
2. Visit:
3. Text: prek to 877877

Every student deserves a great education and that every family should have the information that they need to make sure that their children are in a positive, supportive, and healthy learning environment.