According to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, last week was the start of a pilot program at multiple Bronx schools that will turn school safety agents into unarmed beat cops, roaming the halls and tasked with looking for wandering students, conversing with the students, identifying suspicious activity, and meeting with principals to discuss potential conflicts.
The point of all this is to try and mobilize the city’s school safety agents who currently stand or sit idly at entrances while requesting ID from visitors. Also, it’s an attempt to help cultivate active relationships between the safety officers and their community of students, teachers, parents and staff. Just the notion of having a school safety agent that students can feel comfortable speaking to on a daily basis can go a long way in helping to diffuse situations of distress and anxiety… and if nothing else, will hopefully work as a safety valve to relieve pressure from those in need.
Some critics of this approach cite the city’s first fatal stabbing in a school building in two decades, which happened last fall in a school implementing a similar safety approach.
Proponents of de Blasio’s efforts claim the stabbing happened before the safety measures were fully implemented, and warn against a hardened and militarized approach to safety that leaves so many minority students feeling targeted and further increases tension. Black and Hispanic students have expressed concern of being criminalized by police in their own schools since 93 school buildings with metal detectors are located in minority neighborhoods.
The city spends $47 million a year to help drive down suspensions and test new restorative discipline practices. This new approach to utilizing school safety agents might help, but before it becomes the status quo… there needs to be some data to confirm positive results.
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