IN-SCHOOL SUPPORT: Delegates from the United Federation of Teachers approved a resolution opposing the planned transfer of School Safety Agents from the Police Department to the Department of Education. Teamsters Local 237 President Greg Floyd, who has fought against the transfer, said he was glad to have the UFT's support.

United Federation of Teachers delegates approved a resolution that supports reforming the roles of School Safety Agents—but opposes the plan to transfer them from the Police Department to the Department of Education.

The resolution calls for the UFT to “urge” the City Council Committee on Education not to transfer oversight of the Agents from the NYPD, which was set to happen next July. The delegates voted Nov. 17 against that shift. 

'Shows Appreciation'

Teamsters Local 237 President Gregory Floyd, who represents the Agents and has fiercely advocated against the transfer out of concerns that schools would be left vulnerable, said he’s “glad to have their support.”

“It means a lot to the men and women of School Safety; it shows appreciation for the work they do from an objective body,” the union leader said.

In response to the resolution, DOE spokeswoman Jenna Lyle stated that “School Safety Agents are a crucial reason why our schools are safe and we appreciate the feedback of all United Federation of Teachers delegates.”

The Council’s two-year plan would not only transfer oversight of the School Safety Agents; it would transform their roles. School Safety Agents would be barred from being able to arrest students and use handcuffs, and staff would be retrained in restorative justice and de-escalation practices. The DOE has stated that over this past school year, the Agents were trained in conflict resolution, restorative justice and implicit bias.

Not Pure Solidarity

Although the UFT disapproved of the transfer, its resolution supported altering the roles of School Safety Agents and hiring more Social Workers, Guidance Counselors, and other socio-emotional support staff—all of whom would figure to be represented by that union—particularly as students have continued to struggle with mental-health issues because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The UFT has committed to continue “conversations and actions to ensure students see ‘peace officers’ in schools as supportive members of the community rather than agents of law enforcement, without compromising the integrity of school safety officers,” its website stated.

The Council’s plan to shift the Agents was announced during the summer of 2020 after a Minneapolis police officer murdered George Floyd. But the transfer has been controversial on both sides of the political spectrum, with some proponents of police-free schools calling for the Agents to be removed completely.

Guns Enter Dialogue  

By contrast, many of those against the transfer have argued that School Safety Agents were transferred from the Board of Education to the NYPD in 1998 because school officials had proved incapable of training and supervising them. They also believe that School Safety Agents, who are predominantly black and Latino, are being scapegoated.

Safety within schools has come under increased scrutiny in recent weeks after it was reported that five guns were found on school grounds during a two-day period in late October, which prompted the Mayor to announce increased scanning.

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