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PAWNS IN A POLITICAL POWER STRUGGLE: School Safety Agents are being shifted out of Police Department jurisdiction as part of budget cuts at that agency and will be overseen by the Department of Education, even though it had the program taken away from it in 1998 due to mismanagement. When advocates protested that this wasn't satisfactory, the head of the union representing the agents said this showed the City Council had been stampeded by 'mob rule,' adding, 'Once you start giving in to people who are misguided, it's never enough.' 

The budget decision to remove School Safety Agents from the Police Department’s control and under eventually move under the authority of the Department of Education sparked criticism from both advocates who called for reforms to school safety and the union that represents the Agents.

During the weeks following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, protesters pushed for a complete overhaul to school safety, calling on the City Council and Mayor de Blasio to remove police from schools. The NYPD has had control of School Safety Agents since 1998, but as part of the $88.1-billion budget announced June 30, that function will be overseen by school administrators as part of a multi-year plan, the Mayor announced.

'Restorative-Justice Focus'

“What's important to understand here is in the first year of the transition there will be a growing leadership function played by school leadership. Officers will be trained by the DOE,” he said during a press conference. “There'll be a heavy focus on restorative-justice, socio-emotional learning, deeper dialogue with young people. So, there's going to be a lot of change of approach in the first year and then the full transition during the second year.”

Since the beginning of the de Blasio administration, the DOE has moved away from harsh punishments such as suspensions and made it harder to suspend students for long periods.

Teamsters Local 237 President Greg Floyd, who has noted that when the school system previously oversaw the safety officers during the 1990s, screening was poor—with pedophiles and gang members often winding up with jobs—and training was shoddy, said the Council had submitted to "mob rule" in pushing for the shift in jurisdiction. 

But changing the role of school-safety staff did not go far enough for many of the advocates.

'Want Police-Free Schools' 

“We want police-free schools, not simply transferring who supervises the 5,000 school officers from the NYPD to the DOE,” said Natasha Capers, director of the Coalition for Educational Justice, which has repeatedly called for more counselors at schools.

Just 20 percent of in-school arrests were conducted by School Safety Agents; the rest were carried out by non-school members of the NYPD, according to a report from the New York Civil Liberties Union.

Amberliz Linares, a student at the Brooklyn School for Social Justice and member of the Urban Youth Collaborative, charged that the city was “shuffling budget lines and claiming to deliver police reform.”

“We are suspended and arrested at higher rates than white students. We are stopped and searched in the hallways between classes because of the color of our skin.”

Suspension Disparity

Although about a quarter of public-school students were black, they made up about 45 percent of the students who were suspended during the 2018-2019 school year, according to data from the city.

“We've been clear since day one: we want police out of our schools,” Ms. Linares said.

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams attempted to short-circuit the budget by threatening to block the city from collecting property taxes unless school safety was overhauled and an NYPD hiring freeze was implemented.

A spokeswoman for the Mayor disputed the legality of that threat, stating that the budget was “effective as soon as the Council passes it.”

Mr. Floyd, who represents the Agents, voiced opposition to transferring them out of the NYPD when DOE staff members pushed for the change in a letter to Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza last month. He argued that the reason school safety was transferred from the DOE to the NYPD during the Giuliani administration was because the DOE did a poor job managing them, particularly because it lacked an adequate investigatory unit to perform background checks on prospective Agents.

'Never Enough' for Them

Mr. Floyd said that by giving in to the advocates, Council Members put themselves in a “no-win situation” because the advocates continued to fight for stronger reforms.

“Once you start giving in to people who are misguided, it’s never enough,” he said.

But more importantly, “they’re leaving schools vulnerable,” Mr. Floyd noted.

Council of Schools Supervisors and Administrators President Mark Cannizzaro also pointed out that the DOE failed during its prior attempt at oversight of School Safety Agents.

"This gives us real reason for concern. If the transition is to succeed this time around, the DOE will need to develop a plan that avoids past mistakes without making impossible demands of school leaders," he said.

'Marginalized Them'

Council Member I. Daneek Miller, who chairs the Civil Service and Labor Committee said that the predominantly black and brown women who work as School Safety Agents “play a nurturing and relatable role in our schools."

"It bothers me when the work of the School Safety Agents is marginalized," he said. "If we were smart, we would invest in their professional development including additional training and education in areas like mental health and social work as we move more towards restorative justice."


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(2) comments

Garifuna3

Traffic agents generate revenue and nypd benefits. Traffic agents for through a background check and phych test. School agents are promoted from traffic agents. Traffic agents are smarter and braver than nypd officers but are held to more accountability. Systematic bias and racism

momma cat

In 2016 I had a run in with a school safety agent in my son's high school. This agent felt that because she works for the police dept. that she can say what ever she want to who ever she want. the incident took place on a Saturday. I decided to accompany my son whom was taking the SAT. I was talking to one of the teacher's outside about what time will the school let us in because myself and a few student's and parent's was standing outside and it began to rain. The school agent came and opened the door, jumped into the conversation and literally started an argument with me and of course she got put in her place. I decided to take the matter further, because if she's that bold and disrespectful to me, I can only imagine how she treats the student's. That following Monday I filed an incident report on that school agent and she was removed from my son's school and transferred to another school,which I feel was inappropriate. She should have been suspended and forced into re-training. Instead she got a slap on the wrist and only heaven knows who she's going to disrespect or maybe physically attack next time. If extreme background checks were done on school safety agent's as well as NYPD than these type of individuals would not be on the force, and holding them accountable is what needs to prevail as well. They do not need to defund the police, they need to abolish Qualified Immunity for All police personnel. Yes our schools need security, but not by the police dept. who by the way has turned our school's into Prison Pipelines.

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