Posts tagged "school safety"
May 24, 2013
A year after the Department of Education substantially revised its discipline code to favor less punitive responses to student misbehavior, advocates say a new round of revisions misses an opportunity to improve school climate further.
Last year, in sweeping changes, the department reduced penalties for minor misbehavior, introduced some alternatives to suspensions, and eliminated suspensions altogether for the city’s youngest students. The proposed changes to the discipline code for next year are more incremental, highlighting some discipline strategies that could replace suspension and clarifying that in-school discipline should not cause students to miss instructional time.
“We continued this same strong message about progressive discipline and we want to continue to reinforce a range of disciplinary and guidance supports so schools can develop a progressive approach,” said Marge Feinberg, a department spokeswoman. (more…)
May 17, 2013
When Lynn Sanchez, a Bronx parent activist, challenged police and education officials to address persistent school climate problems during a public forum on school safety last year, she did not think they would say yes.
And yet just months later, Sanchez was sitting with safety agents during one of their training sessions — which, for the first time, community members and advocates were helping to lead.
She saw a long-standing vision of collaboration coming together in that room. “We have to make sure everyone is on same page — we have to include school safety officers, teachers, principals, paras, students, and parents — in order for a school climate to change,” Sanchez said.
The community-run training sessions represent a striking shift in the city’s strategy for preparing safety agents to work in schools, where their role has historically been fraught. While the Bloomberg administration has famously considered principals to be the CEOs of their schools, principals’ authority does not extend to safety agents, who since 1998 have been under the authority of the New York Police Department in an arrangement that advocates say breeds tension.
The quiet shakeup so far has taken place only in a corner of the Bronx, where community groups were able to persuade the police department to let them play a role in the training of 450 agents, and its future is far from certain. But students, educators, and advocates say they are confident that the approach could go a long way toward easing some of the tensions that have plagued city schools, and a small-scale expansion of the first round of trainings appears to be in the works. (more…)
April 16, 2013
After years of pressing Mayor Bloomberg to make school discipline fairer, students and advocates are turning their attention to the candidates seeking to replace him.
At a rally outside City Hall just before a City Council hearing on school climate Monday, students and advocates the Dignity in Schools Campaign called on the next mayor to take a different approach to school discipline. They want a model that relies less on suspensions and other punitive measures, and also ensures that black and Latino students are not disproportionately affected by school discipline.
“We need a mayor that is going to implement and fund restorative justice in our schools,” said Benia Darius, a junior at Bushwick School for Social Justice. “I am soon going to start my training as a peer mediator, and I’m going to be part of the change in my school. But what I want to know today as a student is what you as mayoral candidates are going to do to change these issues in our schools?” (more…)
December 9, 2010
Hundreds of students at Murry Bergtraum High School rioted through the hallways today after the school’s principal told teachers not to give out bathroom passes.
Teachers at the lower Manhattan school said that the day began with a fight between two students on the building’s third floor. After the fight, Bergtraum principal Andrea Lewis reportedly announced over the school’s loud speaker that in the future, students who fought would be arrested. Lewis reportedly told students and staff that for the rest of the day, the school’s bathrooms would be closed and teachers should not issue bathroom passes.
In a school of over 2,600 students, this news did not sit well.
“She also said that in the case of emergency, kids could use the bathrooms in the nurse’s office, but by then, given the nature of adolescents, the message had been delivered that the bathrooms would be shut,” a teacher said. (more…)
June 25, 2010
When the city proposed changes to its discipline rules, its new policy towards “cyber-bullying” and “sexting” caught the public eye.
But the central changes have nothing to do with text messages. They represent a win by civil rights groups who have been calling on the city to make sure that schools use more counseling and less punishment and suspension to resolve problems.
At a hearing on the proposed changes Wednesday, one middle school principal described a program that she piloted and is now part of the new code. In some schools the program, which is known as PBIS and is designed to encourage good behavior in all students at a school, can include a reward system in which students collect points toward a prize for demonstrating things like good study skills.
Denise Jamison, principal of Williamsburg’s M.S. 50, said that the program has helped improve the behavior of even some of her most struggling students. The “hottest ticket” for rewards, she said, is a “No Uniform Today” pass, or “NUT card.” One day, she recalled, she pulled over a student well-known by school staff for his temper and asked why he wasn’t in uniform.
“He pulls out [his NUT card], and we all started congratulating him,” she said. “Because we knew how much he would have had to improved in order to earn that.” (more…)
April 28, 2010
For its size, which is colossal, Herbert Lehman High School has been one of the Bronx’s safest high schools for years. But recent changes and a spate of fights have put the school on track to get permanent metal detectors next year.
If Lehman does get scanners, it means there will be no large, comprehensive high schools in the Bronx without them.
Department of Education spokesman Marge Feinberg said the city’s police department has yet to decide whether to install permanent scanners next year, but students and teachers at the school said they’ve been told to expect scanners in September.
Metal detectors in airports and government buildings are standard fare, but in the city’s public schools, they’re still a source of controversy. While some parents don’t feel comfortable sending their children off to school every day without the scanners, others believe the devices cause minority students to be treated like criminals.
Every morning, about 4,500 students walk through the doors of Lehman’s campus — a school building so large, it looks like a beige space station has landed on East Tremont Avenue. Roughly 4,000 students attend Lehman High School itself, while 500 go to the other school in the building, Renaissance High School for Musical Theater and Technology — a combination that has put the total enrollment well over the building’s capacity of 3,500. (more…)
July 8, 2009
Many city schools rely on metal detectors, security guards, and zero-tolerance policies to keep discipline under control. They don’t have to, according to a new report about alternate strategies to keep schools safe.
The report, produced by the New York Civil Liberties Union and the Annenberg Institute for School Reform, highlights six city high schools that stop problems before they start, help students resolve their own disputes, and keep police out of all but the most serious incidents. The schools range in size and how students are admitted, but they all post higher-than-average graduation rates, the report says.
“There is no cookie-cutter solution” to replicating the gentler approach to discipline, said NYCLU policy director Udi Ofer at a press conference today. But he said getting rid of metal detectors, currently in place at about 130 city schools, is a good place to start. (more…)
July 6, 2009
It’s not just the city schools that are closed to new hires now. Because of the State Senate’s failure to approve a city tax hike, Mayor Bloomberg has frozen hiring for the entire city starting today.
Among the people who are not being added to the city’s payroll are 150 school crossing guards and 175 school safety agents who were set to start walking the halls this fall. (There are more than 5,000 safety agents in the school system, and some advocates have said that’s too many.)
June 26, 2009
A 1998 agreement that gives the city’s police department control over school safety is still in effect, despite city officials’ insistence that it had expired more than six years ago.
The revelation has advocates and elected officials lambasting the city for not disclosing the agreement’s extension.
The original agreement, between Mayor Rudy Giuliani and then-Board of Education President William Thompson, was set to expire in 2002 and was widely assumed to have done so. But in fact, Mayor Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein quietly renewed the agreement in January 2003.
The renewal came to light for the first time this month, after Assemblyman Karim Camara urged his colleagues to consider school safety issues when deciding how to vote on mayoral control, according to Udi Ofer, director of advocacy for the New York Civil Liberties Union. The NYCLU was working with legislators to raise the profile of school safety in the mayoral control fight.
When Camara met with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Silver showed him a copy of the memorandum’s renewal, Ofer said. The paragraph-long agreement was signed by Bloomberg and Klein on Jan. 22, 2003, and does not include an expiration date.
The renewal contradicts information the City Council received during a 2007 hearing on school safety, where council members repeatedly asked whether any formal document existed to define the relationship between the city schools and the police department. (more…)
October 22, 2008
A year ago, the human rights-oriented nonprofit National Economic and Social Rights Initiative released a report accusing the city’s Department of Education of “degrading treatment and abusive policing” in its schools.
Now, NESRI has teamed up with Teachers Unite, a New York City group that emphasizes social justice in education, to showcase the teachers’ perspective on school discipline. The report, titled, “Teachers Talk: School Culture, Safety, and Human Rights,” draws on focus groups, individual interviews, and an online survey of more than 300 teachers in 136 schools.
The bottom line, teachers say, is punitive discipline doesn’t actually help make schools safer.
From the report:
What happens when you ask teachers in New York City public schools how to make schools safe? Not surprisingly, they talk about creating positive school cultures built on caring relationships, a commitment to learning, and the teaching of skills to prevent and resolve conflict.
Teachers also reflect a keen understanding that all members of the school community need to come together to develop a comprehensive plan for discipline with clear rules and consequences that are implemented consistently and fairly.
This holistic approach to school discipline and safety is supported by research which shows that positive environments and constructive interventions with participation from all stakeholders are the most effective means for improving safety and reducing disciplinary incidents. This also reflects a human rights-based approach to discipline which requires that school environments protect the inherent dignity of the child, and that education be aimed at the full academic, social, and emotional development of children.
The report concludes with “action steps” for the mayor and DOE to take, including supporting the Student Safety Act, currently before the City Council; clarifying the division of authority between DOE and NYPD in maintaining discipline; and introducing peer mediation, counseling, and conflict resolution programs in schools.