Believe in NYC Schools: Safety Without Policing
Six months ago, Mayor de Blasio and Speaker Johnson promised the public that there would be a significant divestment from the NYPD Division charged with School Policing – which has a budget amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars. Last Wednesday, the Mayor’s Office testified before the City Council that despite these promises, there will in fact be no reduction to the School Policing budget this fiscal year, and that the NYPD will remain in charge of school safety.
The Dignity in Schools Campaign-NY (DSC-NY) – a multi-stakeholder coalition of students, parents, educators and advocates who demand justice in our education system – knows that New York can do better than respond with excuses and delays. Instead of leading, New York is falling behind. In the wake of racist murders by police, cities across the country are reexamining policing. This resulted in school districts across the country cancelling contracts with police and otherwise shrinking police presence in places of learning.
Instead of actively working to divest from the violence of police and policing culture in our school system, the City is beginning a “transition” process with the mission to simply reshuffle policing positions from one agency to another, namely the NYPD to the DOE. With the City moving forward their negotiations, DSC-NY is restating our firm opposition to policing by another name.
DSC-NY believes in New York City schools and demand they receive the funding they need to build systems and practices of safety where Black and Brown community members have access to well-paid school-based employment that is not policing. We need to fully remove police infrastructure, culture, and practice. We need police-free schools, and we need them now.
Mayor de Blasio ran in 2013 with the promise of advancing education justice in NYC public schools. His actions over the past 7 years have demonstrated that this was a false promise. Mayor de Blasio’s failed response to the school policing crisis, his attempted accounting tricks, broken promises, and decision to shirk responsibility by delaying action until his term ends is further proof that school communities, not the mayor, should be empowered to create truly safe and supportive environments where students will thrive.
Police-Free Schools Means: Funding for Schools to Build Restorative, Supportive, and Safe Schools.
- Supportive positions are created that are well-paid and do not require bachelor’s degrees. These roles do require training in de-escalation and restorative justice. These are DOE positions, not external contracts. Positions include: Paraprofessionals; Youth Advocates; Restorative Justice Coordinators; Parent Coordinators; Community Outreach coordinators. No policing roles by any name (SSAs).
- Black and Brown community members have access to well-paying jobs within our school system that are not through a policing or security structure.
- Students and guests are greeted by community members, not law enforcement.
- No surveillance technologies such as cameras, scanning, or metal detectors in schools, and no online surveillance of students.
- In addition to supportive positions that do not require bachelor’s degrees, positions are also created for counselors and social workers.
- School communities (students, teachers, principals, and parents) oversee the hiring and training of staff, and increase positions for Black and Brown community members.
- There are pathways for former students to be employed at the school they attended in supportive, responsive positions.
- Counselors/Social Workers caseload is manageable (1:50 or 1:100).
- Smaller class sizes (1:23). With smaller class sizes, teachers will be able to build more meaningful relationships with their students. This contributes to a culture where safety is proactive rather than reactive and conflicts can be addressed before serious incidents occur. Additionally, when students are better supported academically they are more able to engage with class content and less likely to be involved in outside issues.
- These efforts need to be supported by Culturally Responsive Education, so that students see themselves reflected in a relevant curriculum that is meaningful to their interests and communities. This helps to create a space where students feel safe and included, which in turn keeps students engaged and in class.
- Restorative Justice is not just a program, but a meaningful culture shift. This needs funding and time. This shift should not be a top-down directive, but instead should be led by students, parents, and educators who have this knowledge and experience . All school staff should receive restorative justice training. End policing culture in schools and punitive practices such as suspensions, detention, zero-tolerance policies, and dress codes.
- Funding should be allocated directly to school communities leading the way—we do not want more money going to private contracts with nonprofits that have no relationship to those school communities.
How We Are Going to Get There
● Abolish the NYPD’s School Policing Division and reinvest that $450 million into creating restorative schools, which have social and emotional supports that build community and keep young people safe.
● Cut the capital budget for policing and surveillance and reinvest that money in infrastructure that will make schools more accessible, safe, and welcoming such as air conditioning, new elevators, and repairs for crumbling buildings.