The head of the union representing School Safety Agents is worried that there may be a shortage of officers due to the cancellation of a 475-person class as schools reopen fully for in-person learning next month.
Teamsters Local 237 President Gregory Floyd said there were about 650 fewer School Safety Agents than usual within the Police Department’s School Safety Division, which currently has about 5,000 Agents.
Opponents Stalled Class
Each of the city’s 1,700 public-schools has at least one School Safety Agent, with the NYPD determining staffing levels at every school in coordination with the Department of Education.
Much of the understaffing was because advocates for police-free schools pushed back against a proposal to hire 475 School Safety Agents at the cost of $20 million. The class was set to start training this spring, Mr. Floyd noted.
The advocates have been working to remove School Safety Agents from city public-schools since a Minneapolis police officer murdered George Floyd 15 months ago, citing high rates of suspension among black and Latino students. The group first learned about the potential hirings during a February City Council hearing on the controversial two-year plan to shift oversight of the Agents from the NYPD to the DOE.
More than 100 organizations sent a letter to Mayor de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea demanding that the hiring plans be cancelled. The City Council ended up scrapping the proposed class as part of the city budget deal.
But the low number of Agents is causing a scramble because all of the city’s 1 million students are expected to return to in-person learning next month, Mr. Floyd stated.
“They’re panicking and they have a shortage,” he said. “That’s what happens when you delay a class.”
Even if a class of Agents were scheduled to start immediately, it takes up to 17 weeks to complete training at the Police Academy.
“This is what happens when you have amateurs running things,” Mr. Floyd said, referring to the Council’s decision to scrap the class.
The union leader expressed the same sentiment regarding the plan to transition the Agents out of the NYPD, pointing out that oversight of School Safety Agents was transferred from the old Board of Education in 1998 because school officials had proved incapable of managing the unit. He worried that if the transfer occurred, students would be left vulnerable.
The DOE stated that it was on track to complete the shift by June 2022. During this past school year, School Safety Agents were trained in conflict resolution, restorative justice and implicit bias, while School Safety Managers underwent new training from the DOE.
Over the past school year, four committees with representatives from the NYPD and the DOE met weekly to develop a training plan for School Safety Agents, to engage with communities about the transition, and to ensure a smooth transition of the Agents’ benefits and paychecks, according to the education department.
“Bringing SSAs back to the DOE is part of ensuring all of our students have safe schools and a caring adult to go to when in crisis, in addition to our recent investments in over 500 new social workers,” said DOE spokesman Nathaniel Styer. “Creating schools that are both safe and welcoming for all students is at the core of this administration’s work, and we have made important improvements to school safety to drive record decreases in police interventions, arrests, and suspensions.”