Monday, July 27, 2009

Safe schools without heavy policing (now with link)

Interesting report sent along to me (thanks, Brendan) from New York City, looking at the results in schools that have a heavy police presence with those that do not:

The report is based on a one-year quantitative and qualitative study of six high schools: Progress High School for Professional Careers (Brooklyn), Urban Assembly for Careers in Sports (Bronx), Humanities Preparatory Academy (Manhattan), Urban Academy and Vanguard High School – both located in the Julia Richman Education Complex (Manhattan), and Lehman High School (Bronx).

None of these schools currently has metal detectors, although some used the devices in the past. Each employs alternative strategies to intervene with troubled students, and they generally enjoy long-term, positive relationships with school safety agents, NYPD civilian personnel assigned to patrol the schools.

What I found most troubling was what is going on in the schools not participating in the alternative:

Since 1998, when Mayor Rudolph Giuliani transferred school security responsibilities to the NYPD, the number of police personnel in the schools soared by 62 percent, from 3,200 to 5,200. The police force in New York City schools is now the fifth largest police force in the country—there are more police in New York City schools than there are on the streets of cities such as Baltimore, Las Vegas, Boston and Washington D.C.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg imported Giuliani’s “broken windows” policing strategy into the schools—cracking down heavily on minor disciplinary violations. Students, some as young as five, have been handcuffed, taken to jail, and ordered to appear in court for infractions such as tardiness, talking back, truancy, refusing to show identification, and refusing to turn over cell phones.

Bloomberg has also introduced such controversial practices as the “Impact Schools” initiative—which doubles the number of police personnel permanently assigned to certain schools and has police agents enforce a zero tolerance policy for rule infractions—and the “roving” metal detector program, which often subjects youth to bag searches and body pat downs on their way to class. The Department of Education now spends 65 percent more per year—an additional $88 million this year alone—than it did in 2002 on school safety, despite the fact that student enrollment has decreased over the same period.

The escalation of police activity in the schools has created a de facto zero tolerance policy in schools that serve the city’s poorest neighborhoods. In these schools, which often have permanent metal detectors, students can be suspended, expelled or arrested for any number of disciplinary infractions.

These punitive measures contribute to the school to prison pipeline, a system of local, state and federal education and public safety policies that pushes students out of school and into the criminal justice system. The pipeline disproportionately affects youth of color and youth with disabilities.

More police in the NYC public schools than in all of Boston? Roving metal detectors?
I wish our federal secretary of education would pay attention to reforming things like this!

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