New York, NY – New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has announced a plan to decrease police presence in the city’s schools by limiting the situations in which law enforcement will be allowed to respond to matters that arise on school grounds.
De Blasio unveiled his plan on Thursday, flanked by Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza, WABC reported.
According to the mayor and school officials, police have historically issued too many citations to Hispanic and black children for crimes they’ve committed.
"Police presence in schools and a zero-tolerance disciplinary approach make students feel like criminals in their own classrooms," Education Policy Center Director Johanna told WABC.
Under de Blasio’s new policy, New York Police Department (NYPD) officers must avoid citing or arresting students “whenever possible” for so-called “low level” law violations such as disorderly conduct, marijuana possession, and vandalism, WABC reported.
Students can only be arrested on school grounds for offenses that occurred off school property in cases of sex offenses, felonies, and “crimes where there is an immediate risk of escape or where the perpetrator is apprehended in hot pursuit,” according to the policy.
The policy also limits the involvement of school safety agents – a group of approximately 5,000 unarmed NYPD agents who are assigned to area schools. In the event the safety agents need further assistance, they turn to uniformed NYPD officers.
Under the new rules, school staff members should refrain from notifying school safety agents regarding students who skip school, show up late, or are caught lying, smoking or gambling.
“Today's announcement is about treating kids like kids, allowing them to recover from mistakes, and teaching them the tools to manage emotions and behavior,” Miller told WABC. “By adopting these recommendations from the Leadership Team, the city is taking real a step toward ending the School to Prison Pipeline."
Abraham Lincoln High School sophomore Shaena Gibson said that restricting law enforcement’s presence and authority on school grounds “could improve the perception of the police,” Chalkbeat reported.
“When there’s a high level of security, and they take it too far they’re setting up a negative mindset of police systems for young people,” Gibson said.
Under the new policy, students will have access to "restorative justice" and social-emotional learning programs, KABC reported.
School officials also plan to hire 85 clinical social workers to intervene with students as needed.
The costs of retraining school personnel and hiring the social workers is estimated to be between $16 million and $21 million per year.
"We've heard from students, teachers and parents across our city, and as a result, we're revolutionizing our school system and giving our kids the social-emotional tools they need to ensure they develop into healthy adults," de Blasio said of the policy changes. "I'm proud that New York City is leading the way in our schools, using research-backed methods that encourage the whole growth of every student."
“This is a moment of change, this is a moment where students are going to get the support they need to be their best selves,” he added, according to The New York Times. “It’s going to help us build a stronger and fairer city.”
Many teachers, as well as the union that represents the school safety agents, said that de Blasio’s policies are tying the hands of school professionals by stripping them of the authority to enforce discipline at their own discretion, The New York Times reported.
Although de Blasio has boasted that major crime in schools has dropped almost 30 percent since he took office, some teachers argue that the schools are simply underreporting incidents in order to appease the mayor’s office.
“I have mixed feelings — my first reaction is obviously it’s great, because it reduces the school-to-prison pipeline,” a Progress High School employee in Brooklyn told the New York Post.” On the other side, I feel like it’s a way of manipulating data.”
“If you look at the infraction, the things [students] would get suspended for in the past are now being issued warning cards — and so it skews your data,” the educator explained.
“If I’m a new principal and you leave it up to my judgement, am I going to be inclined to give that student a suspension and raise my numbers — or am I going to be inclined to make it a mandatory guidance conference?” the employee asked. “You now give me, an administrator, the ability of continuing to low-ball my numbers by leaving it up to me.”