The head of the union that represents School Safety Agents is heatedly disputing Public Advocate Jumaane Williams’s claim that his members have physically and sexually abused students.
During a sometimes-contentious City Council hearing Feb. 17 on the plan to transfer School Safety Agents from the Police Department to the Department of Education, Mr. Williams testified that “many students report verbal, physical and sexual abuse that have been committed at the hands of School [Safety] Agents.”
'NYPD, DOE Don't Know'
“Even more troubling is that neither the NYPD nor the DOE have a clear scope of the abuse,” he continued, adding that neither department was able to identify the number of Agents who allegedly engaged in abuse.
In a Feb. 23 letter to the Public Advocate, Teamsters Local 237 President Greg Floyd wrote that he was “disturbed” by the accusations of misconduct, “and I want to ascertain what information, if any, you have to support your accusations.”
He also noted that if Mr. Williams knew any information about criminal conduct, “I would expect that…you would have investigated these incidents and referred any actionable evidence to appropriate law-enforcement authorities.”
He concluded the letter, “If you have any additional information about claimed incidents of school safety agents committing ‘verbal, physical, and sexual abuse,’ I welcome full investigations of those incidents.”
The union leader has fiercely opposed the plan to end NYPD jurisdiction over School Safety Agents, contending his members have been scapegoated by police-reform advocates.
In a statement, Mr. Williams said that he has “personally heard complaints from young people who have experienced this firsthand and shared their stories in order to better advocate for an improved model of school safety centered around restorative justice.”
Although the City Council established a two-year plan to transition control of School Safety Agents from the NYPD to the DOE because of outrage from advocacy groups over a police presence in schools, many advocates have argued that the reforms did not go far enough. They’ve called for School Safety Agents to be removed, and were angered by a proposal to hire 475 School Safety Agents at the cost of $20 million.
The NYPD has stated that the hiring was being considered to replace Agents who left, but clarified that the decision had not yet officially been approved.
On Feb. 24, 110 organizations sent a letter to Mayor de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea demanding that these plans be cancelled.
'Need Police-Free Schools'
“It's infuriating that close to $450 million is spent on police in schools and even more so that Mayor is going to spend another $20 million on more police in schools,” said Brielka Rodriguez, a youth leader at one advocacy group, Urban Youth Collaborative. “We need to spend all those funds on social, emotional, and mental health supports. We need police free schools.”
Mr. Floyd argued that there was enough money to hire both mental-health staff and School Safety Agents.
“If you want to hire Social Workers, hire them,” he said during a phone interview. “But restorative justice won’t keep weapons out of the schools. Restorative justice won’t keep kids safe.”
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