Following protests around the city demanding to defund the police, Councilmembers Mark Treyger and Donovan Richards have called for the Division of School Safety to be removed from the NYPD and returned to the New York City Department of Education (DOE).
During a joint statement on Monday, Treyger (Bensonhurst-Coney Island-Gravesend-Sea Gate), and Richards, who represents Queens, said the plan put in place in 1998 by then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani that transferred the Division of School Safety from the DOE to the NYPD is no longer viable.
“We are past the days of ‘Zero Tolerance’ approaches to discipline, which meted out severe consequences for minor infractions, disproportionately against black and brown students, and students with IEPs, but we maintain its systems and structures,” they wrote. “Despite students, educators and advocates raising the same concerns for the last 25 years, and despite a move away from the aggressive, punitive model of Zero Tolerance, attempts to address the problems with having school safety managed by the NYPD and deployed into DOE’s buildings have focused on incremental reforms.”
They added that in 2015, the City Council passed a law requiring the NYPD to report regularly on metal detectors and scanners in schools. However, they claim the NYPD has refused to comply. They added that last year’s revision of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the NYPD and the DOE offered reforms.
“An MOU is only as good as the commitment of its parties to its terms,” they said. “Addressing longstanding concerns that the reporting structure for School Safety Agents (SSAs) led to atomized approaches to school safety, we pushed for principals to have the ability to evaluate the performance of the SSAs in their building. It was in the MOU, but it never happened.”
“We need nothing short of structural change,” they added. “Despite their outsized impact on a school’s climate and culture, school safety agents do not report to and are not accountable to principals. At a time when students are experiencing more trauma than ever, we need to make sure that our approach to school safety is aligned to meet the holistic needs of children.
“A seven-year-old having a bad day in a school without a social worker is not an NYPD issue. School safety personnel still have a role to play in keeping children safe but as part of a holistic approach to school climate led by school leaders, not as a fiefdom of the NYPD operating within schools.”