An uptick in weapons seizures on school grounds renewed concerns from the head of the union that represents School Safety Agents that their transfer from the Police Department to the Department of Education could put students in jeopardy.
When high-school students returned to school buildings March 22, they brought more than just notebooks, according to a March 30 memo from Deputy Chief Olufunmilola Obe that was reported by the New York Post the following day. She wrote that there was an “increase in the amount of weapons and dangerous instruments recovered on school grounds.”
Cause and Effect
“The increase coincides with the commencement of in-person learning at NYC public high schools,” she continued.
About 55,000 high school students returned to in-person learning. The majority of students continued to learn remotely full-time.
Twenty-five weapons were seized over a five-day period. Twelve were confiscated on the perimeter of school buildings, while seven were found by metal detectors. School Safety Agents found six weapons in the students' possession.
Teamsters Local 237 President Gregory Floyd said during a phone interview that he wasn’t surprised by the uptick, given the increase in certain crimes committed across the city.
Even in Best of Schools
He has advocated installing metal detectors at every public high school, adding that weapons have been found even at some that were considered safe. “We’ve been conditioned to think that only certain schools have weapons. But all schools have weapons—even Stuyvesant. Bronx Science had a fight club,” he said, referring to reports of public fights held by students at the elite school in 2016.
Ever since the City Council announced last summer that the Agents would be transitioned out of the NYPD, Mr. Floyd has sounded the alarm that the reforms could put students and staff at-risk.
“The group pushing for the NYPD to be taken out should take note of the job being done here to recover these weapons,” he said. “I want to let parents know—you take the Agents out of the schools and there will be no one to stop [the weapons] from coming in.”
He feared that not only was students’ safety threatened, so was transparency.
The reporting of weapons seizures and other crimes in schools “is coming to an end, because the DOE is notorious for hiding statistics,” Mr. Floyd said.
Spurred by 'Minneapolis'
The City Council’s two-year plan to remove police from schools was enacted last summer following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and outrage from advocacy groups about the disproportionate number of black and Latino students who were arrested or suspended in city schools.
But some advocacy groups argued that the reforms did not go far enough and called for School Safety Agents to be removed. So far, three mayoral candidates—Maya Wiley, Shaun Donovan and Dianne Morales—have committed to police-free schools.
Council Member Mark Treyger, who chairs the Education Committee, has pushed for reforming school safety but opposed the Agents being fired. He said that although School Safety Agents play an important role in the school climate, "they cannot dominate it."
He has called for additional socio-emotional support staff to be hired. Schools needed more social workers to ask, "'Why do you feel you need to bring a weapon to school?'" he said. "To me, something that's also very dangerous that can't be picked up by a metal detector or a School Safety Agent is untreated trauma."
We depend on the support of readers like you to help keep our publication strong and independent. Join us.